Monday, September 22, 2014

Think Tanks Doing Journalism

From The Economist:
...Think-tanks, the semi-academic institutions that come up with ideas for politicians. Their policy papers are meant to be dry; their wonks more like politicised civil servants than hacks. But increasingly think-tanks are doing journalism—not just blogging and tweeting but foreign reporting, too.
Foreign Policy, a magazine, now runs “Democracy Lab”, a website paid for by the Legatum Institute, a think-tank based in London. It has a modest budget for freelancers. In June the Centre for Policy Studies, a think-tank co-founded by Margaret Thatcher, launched “CapX”, which publishes daily news and comment on its website and by e-mail. The Centre for European Reform, a think-tank founded by Charles Grant (formerly of The Economist), publishes pieces with gripping headlines such as: “Twelve things everyone should know about the European Court of Justice”.
Unlike non-profits, such as ProPublica and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, think-tanks are in journalism more to promote ideas than to inform the public or expose wrongdoing. Much of what they publish is about policy. For officials and politicians, writes Jeremy Shapiro of the Brookings Institution, an American think-tank, “The thinkers are the validators. They will write op-eds, give pithy quotes to important newspapers, and appear on network news programmes.”
...Twitter, blogs and newsletters can get a think-tank’s ideas to its audience direct. Hence a relationship that used to be symbiotic, with wonks helping create news and hacks distributing it, is becoming competitive—especially in the battle for influential readers, such as politicians.

Here is a chart from Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) on think tank ties to the media, and here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on media connections to think tanks.

Here is a new piece by Till Bruckner titled "US Foreign Policy Manipulation via Media is Systematic, Warns Expert."

Many Washington think tanks have been hiring well-known journalists in recent years in an effort to beef up their efforts to get good writers, network with media-types, and better disseminate information and policy proposals to a wider audience.  And nearly every influential think tank these days has a significant PR operation that is in constant contact with the media in an attempt to stay relevant in a world of thousands of competing think tanks and research organizations.