Over the course of the past year we’ve been pummeled by calls of “fake news” from the right-wing side of American politics and specifically President Trump. The effort to discredit reputable news sources from the Associated Press to NBC has been compounded by the emergence of the politically-driven internet trolls and websites that portray themselves as legitimate news sources that are actually fronts for ideological movements, good and bad, left and right.
Idaho has been unfairly targeted over issues like immigration and refugee resettlement by the likes of Alex Jones, who targeted Twin Falls and Chobani, and was found to be getting support by the Russian Facebook campaign of disinformation and divisiveness. It wasn’t until Chobani initiated a slander lawsuit Jones and Inforwars were forced to admit the claims they had main were false and misleading.
Locally there are several organizations that portray themselves as reliable new organizations but are in reality ideological fronts funded by large out of state political action committees. The most well known of these is the Idaho Freedom Foundation. IFF is part of a network of well-funded “policy watchdog” groups funded primarily through the Koch Brothers. They profess a “free market”, libertarian approach to government and policy. Needless to say it isn’t really libertarian and the free market ideology they profess is decidedly anti-government even when government is the best solution.
Local Politics and Is it Fake or Real
In today’s climate it is clear everyone should peek behind the curtain of the media sources that we see everyday as least once in a while. A “media outlet” named Idaho Politics Weekly came on the scene in 2015. Given its name, it would seem obvious this is a website about Idaho politics presumably by Idahoans for Idahoans. Bill Dentzer’s Idaho Statesman article said of IPW and its polling, “given the lack of routine nonpartisan polling in the state, its appearance has real potential to shape public policy and discussion.” The sponsor of this new outlet was none other than Utah’s Zions Bank, also relatively new to the Idaho market.
But in 2016 several articles written by Chuck Malloy, the lead writer for IPW, and other writers clearly showed a bias toward GOP positions on issues important to Idaho voters. As an example, Chuck characterized the aforementioned Idaho Freedom Foundation as “influential” despite the fact they often promote the most extreme of Idaho Republican politics and have been shunned by many in Idaho Republican ranks. Mr. Mallory has also come to defense of the darling of the “redoubters” Heather Scott (R-Blanchard) on more than one occasion.
Fast forward to this week and the final straw… A quick tweet from AP reporter Kimberlee Kruesi @KKruesi cuaght my attention:
“Clearly, this is an open race at this point, with no Democrat yet announcing a candidacy.”
— Kimberlee Kruesi (@kkruesi) November 27, 2017
Would such an oversight by IPW be by accident? So I tweeted it out as well. To the best of my knowledge neither of us got a response and, as of this writing two days later, the article has not been corrected. So what’s a guy to do?
My first move was to retweet the post and include Zions Bank.
#Clearly @Idaho_Politics has again gone astray of the facts. They should be required to identify themselves as affiliated with the #GOP – clearly this conflict of interest doesn’t bother their sponsor @ZionsBank #IDpol #tuttut https://t.co/mwXkjrDJKN
— Northend.org (@thenorthend) November 27, 2017
I got an almost immediate response from @ZionsBank:
Thank you for pointing out the error, which we will share w/ Idaho Politics Weekly. We will also share your concerns about our sponsorship w/ our Office of the President for review. If you email contact info to firstname.lastname@example.org they will contact you directly. Thank you.
— Zions Bank (@ZionsBank) November 28, 2017
Because I really am interested, as a voter and media consumer, I wrote them the following email to lay out my concerns and to see if they knew these “oversights” were happening, and questioned the impartiality of Idaho Politics Weekly:
Thanks you for your response. On more than one occasion it has been observed by myself and members of the Idaho press that Idaho Politics Weekly has either ignored or misrepresented facts. The latest is in an article about the Idaho Governor’s race that stated “”Clearly, this is an open race at this point, with no Democrat yet announcing a candidacy.” despite the fact A.J. Balukoff filed to run as a Democrat on Nov. 2. The Dan Williams poll cited in the article was conducted Nov. 8-15. This was reported by Kimberlee Kruesi of AP. See link below:
Upon further investigation into Idaho Politics Weekly it is also very clear much of the content is being produced out of Utah by people affiliated with right wing GOP groups. Even the domain idahopoliticsweekly.com is registered by an individual in Utah with ties to the GOP.
It seems disingenuous for a publication, either online or in print, to promote itself as a fair arbiter of Idaho politics when it is simply untrue.
Thanks for your time,
On December 6, 2017 I received the following email from Aaron Clements who work sin the Zions Bank Office of the President
Dear Mr. Green,
Thank you for contacting us and sharing your comments and concerns about our sponsorship of Idaho Politics Weekly. We appreciate your feedback. Zions Bank sponsors hundreds of organizations and events across our footprint in Utah and Idaho every year, and we give thoughtful consideration to many factors when deciding where to allocate our sponsorship dollars. However, our support typically does not give us any control over the decisions and actions of those we sponsor. We did notify the publisher of Idaho Politics Weekly of the error in the article.
Again, thank you for reaching out with your concerns.
Zions Bank Office of the President
Update 12-8-17: As of the posting of this new information from Zions Bank a correction has to the specific article posted by Idaho Politics Weekly has been made. The correction does not address the ideological bias of Idaho Politics Weekly in any way. ~ DGreen