Deal With The Devil

One the one hand, the MinnPost is running sponsored news again.

And yet again, the subject is guns, and the sponsor is the Joyce Foundation, which is (aside from Michael Bloomberg) the biggest funder of anti-gun groups in the United States.  Before Bloomberg bought the local rights for “Protect MN” and “Moms Want Action”, they were the major funder of gun control groups in Minnesota.

And part of that funding went toward buying favorable media, mostly in the form of risibly bald-faced propaganda.

Of course, Joyce has taken a whack at funding respectable journalism as well.

Investigative reporter Mike Cronin has embarked on a Joyce-sponsored multi-part series on the gun culture.  And like not a few previous such efforts, it starts out as a “gorillas in the mist”-style exploration into what is clearly for Cronin a foreign culture, as he takes his Carry Permit training class from Andrew Rothman (a long-time friend of this blog, president of the Gun Owners Civil Rights Alliance, and the guy who, if I had a carry permit, would have  taught me my carry permit class two hypothetical years ago).  Which is as good an intro as there is to the “gun culture” as a newbie can have.

Cronin is going through the class, intends to get his permit, and to purchase a gun as part of his investigation into the “gun culture>

And by all accounts, it’s a fair account, so far, although you be the judge.

No doubt Cronin will be looking at the “other side” of the debate; I’ll be watching.

It’ll be interesting to see what Joyce is paying for, this season.

The Media/Non-Profit Racket

In past months, I’ve showed you how not only big-media-alum group-blog MinnPost, but “No Rant, No Slant” Minnesota Public Radio are on the take from the Joyce Foundation – which funds “Protect MN”, the anti-rights group run by Rep. Heather Martens.  I speculated that it might be the reason that MPR has been so incurious about Martens’ astroturf group, and why the MinnPost – with all its pretenses to legitimate journalism – spent the past year giving Martens a public tongue bath.

I asked – does this involvement go any higher in the Twin Cities’ “progressive” political world?

I asked, and Bill Glahn answered – ten months ago.  Joyce is a huge financial backer of “Take Action MN”, a non-profit that verges on being a political party in its own right, a descendent of “Progressive Minnesota”, which had its own unseemly connections with “non-partisan” institutions.


The Joyce Foundation of Chicago, Illinois, was founded by Iowa lumber heiress Beatrice Joyce Kean.  This $760 million foundation has been involved with TakeAction since near the beginning of the Minnesota non-profit’s existence.  Joyce’s 2006 Annual Report (p. 25) shows a grant of $350,000 to be paid out to TakeAction over two years, “To develop and promote a political reform agenda focused on campaign finance, judicial, and voting rights reforms.”
Joyce’s 2009 IRS Form 990 reveals that the $350,000 grant to the 501(c)(3) TakeAction Minnesota Education Fund was renewed in 2008 for two additional years, “for ongoing efforts to reform and strengthen democracy in Minnesota.”[12]
Joyce’s 2011 IRS Form 990 reveals that, yet again, the $350,000 grant to the TakeAction Education Fund was renewed in 2010 for two additional years, “For advancing a political reform agenda that encompasses election administration, voting rights, campaign finance, redistricting, and judicial independence.”[13]

The Joyce Foundation’s website indicates that the TakeAction Education Fund received an additional $150,000 in 2012 for one year, “For advancing a democracy reform agenda using legislation, community organizing, movement building, coalition work, and unexpected alliances.”
Unexpected alliances?  In any event, the seven-year total of grants from the Joyce Foundation to TakeAction equals $1,200,000.

So let’s break this down:  The Joyce Foundation heavily sponsors “Progressive” non-profits, including “Take Action MN”, “Protect MN”, and (I strongly suspect) “Common Cause MN”.

And they pour money into at least two “non-profit” Minnesota media outlets that have pretensions to respectability; Minnesota Public Radio and the MinnPost.

I’ve sought comment from both organizations in the past, without success.  I’ll try again.

All of this carefully obfuscated money going to support “campaign finance…reforms” is one thing.

Going to buy friendly media coverage?

And finding willing takers, in an industry whose “code of ethics” tells journalists who avoid financial entanglements in their “journalism?”

An Open Letter To MPR News

To:  MPR News
From:  Mitch Berg,Uppity Peasant
Re:  Re-Joyce And Be Glad


Last week, in a similar open letter to the management at the news-blog MinnPost, I asked how they squared the fact that they were accepting sponsorship for their “news” coverage – let alone sponsorship from non-profit issue advocacy groups and the government that journalists are supposed to hold accountable – with professional journalism’s purported ideals and ethics.

These ideals are – we are told – set forth in the “Society of Professional Journalists’ “Code of Ethics“. 

Now – in 2011, MPR accepted a grant from the Joyce Foundation supporting the production of a series, “Following the Firearm“.   As Joyce notes…:

The Center selected reporters working in the Great Lakes region and awarded them fellowships to enable them to undertake in-depth investigative reporting projects. The fellows also attended workshops to learn from experts in gun crime and gun policy. MPR News reporter Brandt Williams spent four months researching the story. The four-part series looks at the sources of Minneapolis crime guns, sentencing for gun crimes, the impact of gun violence on the African American community, and the challenges surrounding firearm tracing.

Now, as has been noted in this space, the Joyce Foundation is the primary sponsor of gun control groups in the United States.  They donate a lot of money to groups like Michael Bloomberg’s “Mayors Against Illegal Guns“, the Violence Policy Center (whose “research” on Second Amendment issues is notable for its strident inaccuracy)…

and the MinnPost, whose own “journalism” on the subject has been increasingly suspect for the past year or so; the MinnPost would seem to have turned into a PR firm for the “Gun Safety” movement.   

But enough about them; let’s talk about MPR.

The SPJ Code of Ethics’ “Accountability” section says that the journalist should…:

  • Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.  So how does reporting news on a controversial subject that is directly sponsored by a group that is a generous advocate for one side of the story not a real conflict of interest?
  • Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.  I’d say getting sponsored by a key pressure group – including having, according to Joyce, a parade of Joyce-approved “experts” paraded before your reporters – qualifies. 
  • Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.  Seems pretty self-explanatory.
  • Disclose unavoidable conflicts.  Was there disclosure?  Yep, there was, to a point; Joyce’s involvement was noted, although Joyce’s stake in the issue – its funding of gun control groups to the tune of tens of millions of dollars – was, near as I can tell, not. Strikes me as avoidable. 
  • Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage.  How does MPR News’ acceptance of sponsorship from a special interest group not qualify?

 Your series aired back in 2011 – and to be fair, it presented factual information without pushing a political point of view especially overtly.  But neither did it go out of its way – in my opinion as a news consumer, activist on the subject and one-time reporter – to present much considered dissent from material supporting Joyce’s desired narrative, either. 

Which would make for an interesting parlor discussion – not that MPR News is especially interested in parlor discussions with people outside the Journo tribe. 

But beyond that?  About a month after the Joyce-sponsored series ran on MPR, the MPR News website published a commentary piece by Heather Martens – director and one of very few members of “Protect Minnesota”, a gun-control group.  The piece was notable for its complete absence of fact; every single non-numeric assertion made in the “Commentary” was false.  Every single one.  

And since I can’t imagine MPR News would publish a commentary by, say, a 9/11 Truther, or someone who favors white supremacy on biological grounds at all, much less without some sort of dissenting comment, I thought it was odd that MPR News granted her the bandwidth they did.

“Protect Minnesota” is also sponsored – almost entirely – by the Joyce Foundation, which had underwritten MPR’s series the previous month. 

Am I connecting dots that don’t belong connected?

Perhaps.  But if MPR had allowed its reporting to be sponsored by the NRA, and then ran an unaccompanied op-ed by Ted Nugent, people would talk, wouldn’t they? 

I don’t expect an answer, of course; MPR News doesn’t like engaging people outside the tribe (as I found last year, when one of your executives mis-addressed an email telling an MPR News staffer not to engage with me, to me). 

But since MPR News spends such time and effort claiming the moral and ideological journalistic high ground – claims to which I’ve given public credence in the past – it’s worth asking. 

Even the SPJ Code of Ethics says so.


Mitch Berg
Uppity Peasant

Continue reading

Open Letter To The MinnPost Editorial Team

To:  Joel Kramer (CEO/Editor), Roger Buoen and Susan Albright (Co-Managing Editors) Don Effenberger (News Editor)
From:  Mitch Berg, Uppity Peasant
Re:  They Get What They Pay For

Esteemed Editors:

I was never much of a reporter.  I could always do the “who, what, when, where, why and how” of a story just fine, and earned a living at it, off and on.  But it was never really my thing.

But I do remember, when I worked in the business, that the fastest way to get a reporter, producer or editor up on their back legs was to suggest that journalism partner with business or government to do the job.  They would say – with righteousness rivaling any Baptist minister or Trappist monk – that Journalism’s mission was to be a check and balance on government, business, anyone with power.    To comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.   Any whiff of filthy lucre was to be kept on the other side of the thick wall and locked door that separated the Sales department from the newsroom. 

Media analysts – I’m thinking Garfield and Gladstone’s “On The Media” on NPR, and the whole Romanesko borg – go through gyrations worthy of a Talmud symposium sifting through the ethics of mixing journalism and money. 

Now, theMinnPosttalks a big game about journalism.  And you’ve certainly staffed your site with a lot of people with long pedigrees in the regional news business.  And Brian Lambert. 

But I’ve noticed on one issue that your site gets a fair chunk of money from from the Joyce Foundation.  The Joyce Foundation also bankrolls most of the major gun control organizations in the United States, including Mayor Bloomberg’s efforts and “Protect Minnesota“. 

And along with this financial link, the MinnPost’s coverage of Second Amendment issues has gotten more and more slanted, and not a little bit risible in the bargain:

  • Doug Grow has positively fawned over Heather Martens and Jane Kay (of “Moms Want Action”, another astroturf anti-gun group that gets money from the same pool of liberals with deep pockets that bankrolls Protect MN and, I suspect, the MinnPost); his coverage has been less “journalism” and more “holding a rhetorical slumber party”.  His piece on Rep. Hillstrom’s counter to the Paymar/Hausman gun grab bills – one of which Martens, a lobbyist, read into the record, a bizarre flouting of House rules – was so devoid of fact I concluded it could only have been written in advance. 
  • I’ve got nothing but respect for Eric Black as a journalist – but his coverage of Second Amendment issues and their Constitutional history this past year has been a fount of inspiration for us on this blog

The MinnPost gets big bucks from Joyce, and starts a wave of anti-Second-Amendment (I’ll be charitable) cheerleading.  Coincidence?

Which leads us to this week, and Susan Perry’s piece on an academic “study” on gun violence.  It was a puff piece about a junk study

…and it was sponsored – as noted in the story’s headline – by UCare.  An arm of the government of the State of Minnesota.  Now, leave aside that that government is currently controlled by the extreme metrocrat wing of the DFL party.  Here’s the question:  if journalism is supposed to hold government accountable, should be finacially beholden to government?

Or does that only count when it’s not a DFL sacred cow being promoted?

Because when your “journalism” is being done at the behest of issue-oriented non-profits and the government you’re theoritically supposed to hold accountable, isn’t it really just public relations?  Or campaign media?


Mitch Berg
Uppity Peasant

Junk Science, Junk Journalism, Platinum Funding

 The MinnPost – a non-profit-run institutional blog established the the intention to get a jump on the next wave of institutional journalism – gets a whole bunch of money from the Joyce Foundation.  Joyce also bankrolls Minnesota’s “largest” gun grabber group, “Protect Minnesota”, and Michael Bloomberg’s “Mayors Against Illegal Guns”, as well as paying academics to deliver the conclusions they want

Is that financial relationship related to the fact that the MinnPost has, whenever the subject of guns and the Second Amendment is at hand, turned itself into a risible propaganda organ for the gun-grabbing extreme left?

From Eric Black’s recycling long-obscure legal theories about the origins of the Second Amendment to Doug Grow’s naked puff-piecemongering in support of Heather Martens’ checkbook advocacy group, the MinnPost would seem to be working hard to earn the $50K or so they got from Joyce. 

The latest?  Susan Perry, a “Health” reporter who has pulled her weight in the past on theMinnPost’santi-gun beat. 

Confederate soldiers! With guns! Defending slavery! This is what the MinnPost think you, the law-abiding gun owner, genuflect to.

Yesterday came this piece, entitled…

Well, no.  We’ll get to the title in a bit.  But I’m going to pull a quote from the end of the story first.  I’ll add emphasis for weasel words and a particularly dim strawman:

“Although correlation is not synonymous with causation,” write Bangalore and Messerli, “it seems conceivable that abundant gun availability facilitates firearm-related deaths. Conversely, high crime rates may instigate widespread anxiety and fear, thereby motivating people to arm themselves and give rise to increased gun ownership, which, in turn, increases availability. The resulting vicious cycle could, bit-by-bit, lead to the polarized status that is now the case with the US.”

“Regardless of exact cause and effect, however,” they add, “the current study debunks the widely quoted hypothesis purporting to show that countries with the higher gun ownership are safer than those with low gun ownership.”

So – seventeen paragraphs into a nineteen paragraph article, we hear that the reasearchers aren’t actually drawing conclusions (in attacking a “widely quoted hypothesis” that nobody quotes at all). 

Which is a bit of a letdown for a story whose headline…:

“Idea that ‘guns make a nation safer’ is debunked in study”

…fairly screams “We’ve got a big big big conclusion here!”

 The Rhetorical Slalom Between The Strawmen: I’ll throw this out to the shooters in the audience.  Was this premise…:

The idea that “guns make a nation safer”

…as new to you as it was to me?

Anyway – the “premise”…

…is not true, according to a study published today in The American Journal of Medicine.

In fact, the study found just the opposite: Countries with a low rate of gun ownership have significantly fewer gun-related deaths than those with a high rate.

Right.  In the same way that areas where couples marry have higher divorce rates than areas where they just shack up. 

The study – and Perry’s piece – are honest, in a very dishonest sense; they scrupulously point out that gun death rates are, mirabile dictu, lower in places fewer guns.  But the “study” is equally scrupulous in avoiding apples to apples comparisons, or correlating their conclusions to any data that doesn’t fit inside their razor-thin premise…

…which is to attack a case (“Nations with few guns have higher gun crime rates!”) that, for the life of me, I’ve never heard a single credible person make – about nations, anyway. 

Cherry-Picked:  Perry notes that…

The U.S. leads in gun ownership — and gun deaths

The analysis found that the United States has far and away the highest rate of gun ownership, with 88.8 privately owned guns for every 100 people (“almost as many guns as it has people,” Bangalore and Messerli note)…The United States also has the highest firearm-related death rate: 10.2 deaths per 100,000 residents…At the other end of the spectrum are Japan and the Netherlands. Japan has a gun-ownership rate of 0.6 guns per 100 people, while the Netherlands’ rate is 3.9.

Those two countries also had two of the lowest death-by-gun rates: 0.06/100,000 for Japan and 0.46/100,000 for the Netherlands.

But neither Japan nor the Netherlands is fighting a “Drug War”; neither nation has policies that have turned their inner cities into shooting galleries, controlled by people who have nothing to lose by resorting to violence to protect their markets, using entry-level employees who grow up in a culture that glorifies violence and ignores consequences. 

Neither Japan nor the Netherlands has a major geographical region dominated by a culture that was practicing duelling and honor-killing and treating violence as a way of life long before there was a United States – a culture whose crime rates are, at worst, on par with the worst of the inner cities

Indeed, both Japan and the Netherlands are extremely homogenous countries; homogenous societies tend to be pretty placid – until they have to flirt with heterodoxy (ask the Koreans and the Ainu in Japan, or the Indonesians in the Netherlands).

Indeed, Perry’s article points – unwittingly – at the truth:

The only country that was a bit of an outlier was South Africa. It had a relatively low gun ownership rate of 12.5/100, but a high (the second-highest, just below the U.S.) gun-related death rate of 9.41/100,000.

And of the countries on the list, South Africa is the only one with a significantly – indeed, pivotally – heterodox society.  One with massive urban dysfunction, to boot. 

Which might lead the rational observer to conclude – or see a correlation, anyway – that guns don’t kill people; societal dysfunction does.

Math Is Hard, And Psychiatry Is Harder:  But let’s look at the “gun death” numbers Perry actually does deign to report – the relative gun murder rates in the US, the Netherlands, Japan and…:

[…the] United Kingdom also ranked low on both lists. It has a gun-ownership rate of 6.2 per 100 people and a gun-death rate of 0.25 per 100,000.

But fully half of the US “gun death rate” is suicides.  And the suicide rate in the US (12/100,000) is half of Japans (21.7/100,000), and equal to the UK’s (11.8), and both the US and UK are 50% higher  than the Dutch, at 8.8/100,000. 

We’re not sure if the “study” concluded that guns and depressed, mentally-ill or chemically-addled people don’t mix, or not.  Perhaps the Joyce Foundation will write a grant to study that?


Is This A Strawman, Or A Begged Question?: Perry’s piece continues:

Their conclusion: “There was no significant correlation between guns per capita per country and crime rate, arguing against the notion of more guns translating into less crime.”

This is the third time in Perry’s piece the “notion” that anyone is comparing national gun rates to crime – at least in nations with working legal and law-enforcement systems, which is what the “study” is limited to. 

And for the record, I’m at a complete loss as to a single credible pro-gun advocate who’s made that claim – between nations.  The variables – societal heterodoxy, cultural conditions, criminal justice issues, different judicial systems – are far too complex to make such a case in an intelligent way. 

But when you start eliminating variables?   By just considering different firearms ownership rates in the US?  It’s not rocket surgery – even I can do it, even though I don’t have to because John Lott et al already did.  At worst, in the United States, places with higher legal gun ownership are very generally safer. 

And that’s just a correlation.  I’m not ascribing causation.

And unlike Susan Perry, I’ll admit that without any obfuscation.

So Let’s Summarize:  Susan Perry’s article reports on a non-comprehensive study whose own authors admit it’s a non-“debunk”-ment, that reached no meaningful conclusion about a premise that nobody advanced. 

Follow The Money:  We mentioned the Joyce Foundation – which bankrolls both the MinnPost and the state’s “largest” gun control group. 

One might ask – is it possible to expect honest “journalism” from a publication that has a financial interest in reporting an organization’s slant on the news? 

I’ll ask – because as Perry’s article notes in its heading, in addition to the Joycers…

This content is made possible by the generous sponsorship support of UCare.

So not only is the MinnPost an organ of an anti-gun extremist group, it’s also on the payroll of…

…the State of Minnesota.

Edward R. Murrow would vomit.