It shouldn't require a lawsuit to get Gov. Tony Evers to withdraw his edict to exclude the right-wing MacIver Institute from media events, including press conferences and briefings.
The institute self-styles itself as a conservative think tank that serves as the free market voice for Wisconsin. It has received nearly $1 million in contributions from the Bradley Foundation, perhaps the biggest funder of conservative causes in the state.
It considers itself a news service with a news director and a handful of reporters who write stories with a conservative perspective. Their work most frequently appears on the blog once run by Milwaukee talk show host Charlie Sykes called "Right Wisconsin."
Nevertheless, all of this should have no bearing on whether the organization gets to attend the governor's press conferences and briefings. As Bill Lueders, the president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, put it the other day, "If Tony Evers has what it takes to lead state government, he ought to be able to withstand the inclusion and presence of reporters from a conservative news outlet."
I agree. Neither governors nor any other politician should differentiate between news outlets and decide which are or aren't legitimate news organizations. That flies in the face of the First Amendment.
But, lest some of Evers' critics, particularly conservative politicians, ostracize Evers for inviting this suit, they might take a closer look at themselves.
It had been common practice for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos to deny press credentials to the Center for Media and Democracy which, like the MacIver Institute, covers state politics, only from a more liberal view. CMD has unearthed several "scoops" in recent years, including the cozy relationship between Wisconsin conservative legislators and the infamous American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and how they conspired on legislation.
We do live in a time, thanks to the internet and digital news sites, when it is difficult to sort out who is or isn't legitimate media. The Capitol Press Corps tried to take on the task itself, but threw up its hands when it discovered it couldn't please all.
In the end, political views of the news site shouldn't be the determining factor. Liberal governors should credential conservatives and conservative politicians should OK liberals.
As the old adage lectures: The cure for the ills of democracy is more democracy.
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org, 608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.
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