What Happened in Ohio, Part 4: The Impact of JINOs

by Matt Mayer

The liberal bias of national media has been well documented over the years. Less explored is the liberal bias of media at the state level. In Ohio, it’s alive and well. Jason Hart at Media Trackers Ohio did amazing work over the last two months exposing it. In two key pieces, Hart reported on the person behind Ohio’s PolitiFact operations at the Cleveland Plain Dealer and how other Ohio newspapers enable that bias to spread across Ohio.

In his piece “Liberal “Fact Checkers” Crushes PolitiFact Ohio’s Credibility,” Hart wrote:

Voter registration records and social media posts expose Tom Feran, a columnist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and PolitiFact Ohio, as a liberal Democrat. While PolitiFact Ohio presents itself as an above-the-fray judge of objective truth, Feran’s bias is hardly obscured in his work: PolitiFact Ohio editors Robert Higgs and Jane Kahoun are both registered Democrats according to Board of Elections records.

Hart also released a 2008 tweet from Feran pushing Obama’s candidacy. Hart’s piece on Feran contains lots of evidence of Feran’s bias.

In the second piece, “Newspapers Enable PolitiFact Ohio’s Liberal Bias,” Hart details how other Ohio newspapers use “findings” by PolitiFact Ohio to hit Republican candidates.

The problem is far worse than an election-year tool used by the media to judge campaign statements. In my book Taxpayers Don’t Stand a Chance, I devote a chapter to the case against Ohio’s liberal media. I refer to them as JINOs — Journalists in Name Only:

These JINOs give the impression that they present both sides of the story, and you’ll find conservatives quoted in many stories. Conservative quotes, however, typically appear at the very end of the story. Many readers never make to the end of most stories and thus miss the other side of the story. This end of the story treatment is used only to provide a thin veneer of presenting “both sides.” Naturally, these stories were selected by the JINOs based on their priorities and not on the work done by conservative.

Under my leadership, my think tank released ten major reports (and countless smaller pieces) on the big challenges facing Ohio. These reports covered collective bargaining, criminal justice, Medicaid, government pensions, government consolidation, jobs and the economy, and property taxes. As detailed below, these reports significantly influenced policymakers in Ohio.

We also undertook a major redesign of the website that resulted in over 6 million searches of government salary data in just 18 months. We created several first-in-the-nation tools for taxpayers to use to educate themselves on their total tax burdens (the Tax Calculator tool), on compensation differences between the public and private sectors (the Job Comparison tool), and the gold-plated nature of government pensions compared with their own retirement plans (the Retirement Comparison tool). Over 1 million visitors have used these innovative tools. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants is using the Tax Calculator as the model to replicate in the other 49 states.

We commissioned Magellan Data and Mapping Strategies to conduct poll on the big issues in July 2010. Because of the large sample, 1,800 registered voters in Ohio, the poll’s margin of error was only 2.31 percent. Ohioans were asked how they would solve Ohio’s estimated $8 billion deficit and were provided these three choices: reduce government compensation packages, cut government services, or increase taxes. Fifty percent chose reducing government compensation packages, and only 16 percent chose higher taxes. More interestingly, 85 percent of Ohioans, including Democrats and labor-union members, supported giving workers the freedom to choose whether to join labor unions. The top-line results, cross-tabs, and polling presentation were all provided to the media.

Yet, other than two stories by Laura Bischoff in the Dayton Daily News, on the release of government salary data on the website, no journalist covered any of our major reports, our website innovations, or the the results of our poll. It is impossible to ignore liberal media bias in the newsrooms after such a statistically shocking outcome.

Like Ohioans who showed great interest in our work and website, the editorial side of the newspapers found our work highly relevant, citing us more than 20 times during my tenure. And our work led to legislative reforms in Ohio.

I conclude the discussion on liberal media bias in Ohio by noting, as I do in my book, that “I don’t begrudge left-wing groups the coverage they get. My concern is that conservatives did not get any, let alone equal, coverage. This failure on the part of those entrusted with the responsibility to fairly and accurately provide readers with news important to them puts taxpayers at an enormous disadvantage when it comes to making informed decisions.”

Over the last few months, the media blackout of conservative work continued. In July, my new think tank released a survey on Ohio, including the presidential and U.S. Senate races. The survey got picked up by Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog and PoliticalWire but was not reported on by a single Ohio media outlet. In August and October, we released an analysis of Ohio’s unemployment rate: Ohio’s decline in the labor force exceeded the increase in those officially on unemployment, and the state’s unemployment rate was likely closer to 9.3 percent. Those items too were ignored by the media. Finally, in September, we released a comprehensive report on Ohio’s energy resources, “Leveraging Our Natural Resources: Ohio’s Opportunity to Lead the World Again,” which detailed the impact that President Obama’s war on coal and Governor Kasich’s proposed tax hike on oil and gas would have on Ohio. Again, not a peep from the media.

Most Ohioans don’t get their news from the New York Times or the Washington Post. They get their news from state-based media sources. If those sources are also biased in favor of liberals, it should be no surprise that Republican candidates in top races struggle to get fair coverage of their campaigns. With the issue of jobs and coal at the forefront of the debate in Ohio, biased coverage certainly made it harder for Romney to make his case to Ohioans.

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[box]For more, read part 5 of What Happened in Ohio[/box]

Matt A. Mayer is the president of Opportunity Ohio, a state-based free market think tank in Dublin, Ohio, and author of Taxpayers Don’t Stand a Chance: Why Battleground Ohio Loses No Matter Who Wins (and What to Do About It). Mayer is also a Visiting Fellow with The Heritage Foundation and a Research Fellow at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.

This article was reposted via National Review Online.