How Wichita Eagle news stories label outside organizations is a window into the ideology of the paper’s newsroom.
A Wichita Eagle op-ed references a report released by two think tanks, Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy and Kansas Center for Economic Growth. (Kansas tax system among the most regressive, January 18, 2015.)
Here’s what readers can learn about the mindset of the Wichita Eagle. These organizations were named. Named and referenced without labels, adjectives, or qualifications that give readers clues about the ideology of the organizations.
That wouldn’t be remarkable except for noticing the contrast in how the Eagle labels conservative and libertarian organizations, most notably Kansas Policy Institute. A quick use of Google finds these mentions of KPI in recent Eagle pieces:
- “Dave Trabert, president of the Kansas Policy Institute and an outspoken advocate for conservative education reforms”
- “The Kansas Policy Institute, a free-market think tank linked to Koch Industries”
- “The Kansas Policy Institute, a conservative think tank”
- “Dave Trabert, president of the Kansas Policy Institute, a conservative think tank in Wichita”
- “The Kansas Policy Institute, a conservative think tank based in Wichita”
- “The Kansas Policy Institute, a conservative Wichita nonprofit organization”
- “parallel recommendations from the Kansas Policy Institute, a conservative small-government think tank”
Always, a reference to Kansas Policy Institute includes a description of the organization’s politics. This is not inaccurate, as KPI is conservative and free-market.
Contrast with these recent excerpts from Eagle stories:
- “Duane Goossen is a senior fellow at the Kansas Center for Economic Growth”
- “said Annie McKay, director of the Kansas Center for Economic Growth”
- “The Kansas Center for Economic Growth recently surveyed districts and analyzed data from the Kansas State Department of Education”
- “A study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy that Laffer disputes”
- “said Matt Gardner, executive director of the liberal-leaning Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy”
- “according to an analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, which is based in Washington, D.C.”
- “Wednesday’s report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy says”
You can see that one time the Eagle slipped and labeled ITEP as “liberal-leaning.” That’s actually a gentle characterization of ITEP, which in reality lies quite far on the left end of the political spectrum, as does Kansas Center for Economic Growth. But the use of a label shows that someone, at one time, was aware of ITEP’s politics.
So why does the Eagle routinely label Kansas Policy Institute, but never or rarely label Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy and Kansas Center for Economic Growth?
We know the editorial page of the Eagle is liberal, favoring progressive policies of more taxes and larger government over economic freedom almost without exception. We see too that the newsroom shares the same view, as shown by the sampling of references above. Labeling a source as conservative, free-market, and linked to Koch Industries is not meant by the Eagle to be a compliment.
A note: The two outfits the op-ed relied upon produce much content that is demonstrably wrong. The Tax Foundation has found many serious problems with the report that is the subject of the Eagle op-ed. See Comments on Who Pays? A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All 50 States (Second Edition). For KCEG, see Kansas school teacher cuts, student ratios.