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Free-market think tanks across country start up news operations, hide funding sources

A growing number of conservative groups are bankrolling startup news organizations around the country, aggressively covering government and politics at a time when newspapers are cutting back their statehouse bureaus, the Associated Press reports; we’ve seen our own example here in Boise, where the Idaho Freedom Foundation launched “Idahoreporter.com.” “If you have a laptop, a wireless card and a flip cam, you’re as powerful as The New York Times,” Jason Stverak, a former North Dakota Republican Party director who runs the year-old Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity in Bismarck, told the AP. Stverak said the movement has caught on because people are skeptical of the mainstream media. “You can draw a parallel between the explosion in the tea party and the rapid increase in the amount of new news organizations,” he said.

The new organizations have been denied Statehouse press credentials in numerous states because of their ties to advocacy groups. Many of the groups, including the Idaho one, refuse to say where they’re getting the money to finance the operations. Phill Brooks, director of the University of Missouri’s State Government Reporting Program, said such reluctance is a “red flag.” A similar startup news service in his state, Missouri News Horizon, refused recently to say who was paying the bills. “I can’t recall in 40 years that there’s been an organization that has come here and asked for recognition as a news organization that hid its financial background,” he said. Click below to read the full story from AP reporter John Miller.

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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