MAINSTREAM MEDIA GOES ALL IN FOR LIBERAL UNDERWRITING
When last year the Anchorage Daily News announced it had received a ProPublica grant to produce a series about the lack of law and order in village Alaska, some knowing observers nodded their heads and said, “They’re going for a Pulitzer.”
The project proposed had the distinct contours of what the Pulitzer committee members like to see: Social justice denied, dramatic and easy-to-tell plot line with gripping vignettes that illustrate a greater problem. A series. A cause to champion and a public policy needle to move.
It was not unlike the series that won the newspaper a Pulitzer just a few years earlier. “People in Peril” focused on rural alcoholism in Alaska villages, “the epidemic of despair that is robbing an entire generation of its birthright happens far from city lights,” the newspaper wrote at the time.
If only the booze was gone, rural Alaska would be a great place — that was the takeaway of the “People in Peril” series of 1988. The alcohol kept flowing and the drugs — meth and opioids — fuel family dysfunction and social destruction, as pointed out last year by independent writer/thinking/curmudgeon Craig Medred, an ADN alumnus who remarked on his old newsroom winding up the pitch for another Pulitzer project, this time with ProPublica financing:
“Now the ADN, in cooperation with ProPublica, is back with what it hopes will be another Pulitzer Prize-winning series redefining the problem. This time the newspaper has teamed up with Outside media to argue the problem is a lack of law enforcement to keep people from harming each other.
“The crisis of alcohol and despair has evolved into a crisis of crime,” Medred wrote of the moving target — what is it exactly that ails Rural Alaska: Drugs and alcohol, or crime unpunished?
A generation has passed since that “People in Peril” series. If anything, the problems seem to be worse.
But in 2019, the reporters and photographers followed the time-tested Pulitzer formula and pumped out another series, one that spoke to the rampant lawlessness, and a village public safety program run amuck with convicted criminals serving as village cops.
As predicted, this week it was announced that the newspaper had grasped the brass ring, winning the Public Service Pulitzer Gold Medal for the “Lawless series”, a year-long deep dive into what the newspaper calls the failures of the criminal justice system in rural Alaska. Rural Alaska is a place deeply committed to tribal sovereignty, but that’s a story for another day. It wasn’t the story the ADN set out to tell.
During the ADN’s project year, U.S. Attorney Bill Barr visited rural Alaska and listened to the travails of locals — mainly women — who are preyed on in villages, some of which are intergenerational rape camps.
In lightning speed, Barr released $10.5 million directly to tribes and tribal organizations to beef up the number of officers, to repair buildings, and buy equipment. No strings attached in the sense that there would be little, if any, accountability. More money followed in the way of grants.
It was parachute decision-making and it made for an effective part of the story — the newspaper followed Barr’s every move in Alaska. Barr declared public safety an emergency in Alaska. The newspaper can rightfully take some credit for getting the money to villages.
A year later, few if any village officers have been hired, and there is no accountability for the federal expenditure. It’s business as usual in villages.
“But what is certain is that the simple and dramatic story is easier to both write and digest than the complex and complicated story, much more likely to spark government action, and thus much more likely to win a prize,” Medred wrote in 2019 at the outset of the Lawless project.
It’s the third Pulitzer Prize for the Daily News in the newspaper’s history — all in the public service category. The gold medal for public service is among 15 Pulitzer Prize categories awarded for journalism this year. Without a doubt, this is a feather in the cap for the newspaper, which has seen better days. It’s like winning a Grammy or an Oscar. These are your peers telling you that you’ve done the best work in America during the past year.
Reporting for “Lawless” was led by undeniably talented Kyle Hopkins, and included contributions from many ADN staff members, all of whom get to own a Pulitzer medallion for touching any part of the series.
The project was funded by ProPublica, which calls itself an “independent nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism with moral force. We dig deep into important issues, shining a light on abuses of power and betrayals of public trust — and we stick with those issues as long as it takes to hold power to account.”
Indeed. In 2020, ProPublica is an anti-conservative news organization. It’s not just liberal or progressive, but is committed to leftist cause journalism, and has been funded by the most left-leaning foundations in America, such as the George Soros’ Open Society, The Sandler Foundation.
What ProPublica specializes in is “cause journalism” that it defines as “independent investigations.” A scan of the group’s chosen journalistic endeavors shows that it is the house organ for the Democratic Party, at best.
In May of 2015, a scan of the ProPublica top headlines show a smattering of stories about a variety of topics, some of them having to do with water distribution in the West. These were during the Obama years:
But by November, 2016, the stories strongly focused on criticism of the recently elected President Donald Trump:
- “How Journalists Need to Begin Imagining the Unimaginable.”
- “In An Ugly Election Result, Hate Surges Online.”
- “Surprise: Trump’s Adviser on Wall Street Regulations is a Longtime Swamp-Dweller.”
From November, 2016 point on, ProPublica has focused its muscle on discrediting the president.
But with cash to award compliant newspapers, it expands its reach beyond its own website. And during the past decade, as newspapers have seen both circulation and revenues decline and their share of the news market continuing to fall, they have found takers.
Newspaper circulation in 2016, the year Trump was elected, dropped to levels not seen since World War II.
Revenues have plummeted for newspapers, even before the Wuhan coronavirus destroyed their advertisers. The newsroom layoffs picked up steam and there was no investment in projects like the ones that win Pulitzers. Now, it’s just about survival.
For newspapers to compete for the Pulitzer Prize in the future, readers can expect more alliances with foundations that have a cause to champion.
The original phrase on the Pulitzer Medallion of “disinterested,” meaning objective journalism that is not beholden to any entity, is merely a vestigial concept, as newspapers make these alliances that influence their coverage and cripple their independence. In the fraternity of journalism, financial friendships such as these create undeniable relationships of a common purpose.
The danger for any traditional newsroom today is that the business model that has supported their product is no longer viable. And yet, liberal foundation funding is a Siren’s call to their own hastened destruction.