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Progressive Leaders Encouraged to Buy Media Outlets for Boosting Influence Over Americans: Report

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A recent report released by idealogues is pushing progressive leaders in the United States toward buying or collaborating with media outlets and influence channels in order to counter the supposed dominance of conservative media in the country.

The June 2023 report (pdf) characterized the demise of left-wing outlets like BuzzFeed News and the bankruptcy of Vice Media as signs of “a time of extreme transition in the world of news and media.” Citing an Economist/YouGov survey, the report pointed out that liberal or progressive media reaches the “lowest share of Americans and reaches less than half of the number of consumers reached by conservative media.” It called for liberal supporters to make more investments in for-profit media companies and social media influencers.

One of the authors of the report is Arkadi Gerney, a longtime Democratic operative. Co-authors include Sarah Knight, a former director at the George Soros-backed Open Society Foundation, and Tim Hogan, a presidential campaign communications director for Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) in 2020

Titled “Analysis of the Changing U.S. News Media Landscape and Strategies Toward Delivering Civic Value,” the 85-page report was prepared for a gathering of progressive leaders in Washington, D.C., in May, according to media outlet Semafor.

“The increased concentration of media among wealthy and conservative owners—and particular local media—presents significant risks that political information will become both more scarce and more skewed toward right-wing perspectives,” the report stated.

In an interview with Semafor, Arkadi Gerney said that he hoped the paper will be used by center and left-leaning investors to counter the reach of conservative media.

Though the report characterizes American media as being dominated by conservative forces, a July 2021 study published at ResearchGate found that journalists in the West, including from the United States, are mostly biased toward leftist ideologies.

“Compared to the general population of voters, journalists prefer parties that have more left-wing positions overall, and that are associated with certain ideologies, namely environmentalism, feminism, social liberalism, socialism, and support for the European Union,” it said.

The report suggested that “progressive” supporters collaborate with online creators and individual journalists who are “engaging greater shares of the American public with news, explainer content, opinion, and personal narrative.” It recommended “progressive” supporters to invest in profitable local TV networks to expand the reach of progressive ideologies.

“We believe that many of the best opportunities for cause-motivated investors lie in diverting a share of the investment that’s going into exclusively cause-funded nonprofits toward sponsored content and into direct investment in hybrid and for-profit enterprises with large audiences,” it said.

“Likewise, rather than continuing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on TV ads, we believe that there is more long-term value for nonprofit investors … in diverting a share of that investment into sponsoring topical reporting in a for-profit, or simply in buying some of the stations on which they are now advertising.”

Sinclair Group, Leftist Bias in Media

Sinclair Broadcast Group,
Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc.’s headquarters in Hunt Valley, Md., on Oct. 12, 2004. (Steve Ruark/AP Photo)

The report highlighted the influence of the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which has an “overtly conservative tilt to its local news coverage.”

Maryland-based Sinclair is the second-largest television station operator in the United States, with 185 stations in 85 markets. Sinclair’s TV stations are affiliated with ABC, CBS, Fox, CW, and NBC, among others.

“Political scientists from Stanford and Emory have found that Sinclair’s purchase of news stations across the country causes a significant right-wing shift in content and increased discussion of national politics,” the report stated.

In recent years, progressives have attempted to counter right-leaning local news outlets through new initiatives.

For instance, Tim Hogan, one of the authors of the report, is the executive director of a new regional digital newsroom called Heartland Signal that is linked to WCPT 820AM, a progressive radio station in Chicago.

Among major news organizations, conservative media outlets like Fox News attract more viewers than progressive outlets like CNN. According to data from Statista, Fox News is the number-one cable news network in the United States as of February 2023, attracting 2.26 million primetime viewers. In contrast, CNN only garners 587,000 primetime viewers.

Meanwhile, there is a heavy bias found among reporters in American media when compared to the public, according to a July 2022 Pew Research survey.

While 76 percent of the general populace said that “journalists should always strive to give every side equal coverage,” only 44 percent of U.S. reporters agreed to it. Instead, the majority 55 percent of reporters believed “every side does not always deserve equal coverage.”

Among reporters who said the audience of their news organization leans left, 69 percent did not believe every side deserves equal coverage. This was at 42 percent among reporters working for news outlets with a right-leaning audience.

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