by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The Biden administration tapped a liberal journalism academy that once promoted a “blacklist” of conservative outlets to train reporters on how to create “balanced and bias-free” journalism.
The Poynter Institute held the training course with reporters as part of a contract with the U.S. Agency for Global Media, according to a federal spending database. The agency, which paid Poynter $23,500 for the course through March 31, oversees Voice of America and other government news outlets.
The agency could seemingly use the training. Republicans have accused the organization of whitewashing stories about Iran and engaging in partisan advocacy in favor of President Joe Biden.
But Poynter may not be the best choice to teach journalists the art of unbiased and balanced reporting. While the organization bills itself as “nonpartisan,” it is funded largely by wealthy Democratic donors George Soros, Pierre Omidyar, Craig Newmark, Bill Gates, and Tim Gill, an LGBT activist whose husband is Biden’s ambassador to Switzerland.
In 2019, Poynter released a “blacklist” of conservative news organizations, including the Washington Free Beacon, deemed “unreliable.” Poynter retracted the list, called “UnNews,” after widespread criticism. Poynter’s fact-checking site, PolitiFact, often displays pro-liberal and anti-conservative bias. A Free Beacon analysis found that of PolitiFact’s fact-checks of politicians, 62 out of 86 targeted Republicans. The site has also retracted numerous fact-checks later deemed inaccurate, including one in 2020 that said the theory that the coronavirus emerged from a lab leak in Wuhan, China, was “inaccurate and ridiculous.”
In September 2020, Poynter executive Kelly McBride took part in a tabletop exercise held by the liberal Aspen Institute to plot how journalists, social media executives, and others would handle the hypothetical “hack and dump” of First Son Hunter Biden’s emails. The working group advised participants to treat any release of Biden documents with skepticism and to consult with other news organizations and intelligence officials before publishing stories based on the records.