As they say in the South, a hit dog will holler. So it was this past weekend when the right wing blogosphere turned some attention to our publisher, the Applied Research Center, in order to protest Colorlines.com’s aggressive coverage of attacks on voting rights over the past year.
The conservative watchdog group Media Trackers Ohio spelled out for its readers all the work we’re quite proud to have done this year. Beginning as early as February, we worked aggressively to follow the tea-party led movement to roll back access to voting. We sent reporters to their conferences and meetings to find out what they were saying and planning. We asked them, time and again, to square their assertions that voter fraud is a problem with overwhelming evidence to the contrary. In the end, the most direct answer we received came in the form of a poll watcher in Aurora, Colorado, who offered some unique candor. Watch the explanation for yourself.
The Media Watch Ohio article, which got some shine on the rightwing site Daily Caller as well, professes to uncover our ties to various foundations and publications that support racial justice. Presumably, they believe these associations call our journalism into question. To the contrary, we believe they lend us credibility.
That’s why, when we put together our Voting Rights Watch project, we decided to make space for the voices of folks who were working in targeted communities to defend their own rights. We recruited more than a dozen community journalists, many of whom were part of local movements and campaigns, and asked them to chime in with both perspectives and leads. Their contribution added invaluable texture, such as this testimony from Tayna Fogle, a Kentucky woman who fought for years to have her rights restored after serving time for a felony.
For the record, as a nonprofit our funding is entirely public for the world to see and we’re quite proud of it. The partnerships and funders we have cultivated reflect our commitment to a movement to bring about the just society our nation’s founding documents promise. At Colorlines.com, our contribution to that movement is to produce thorough, fair, accurate and hopefully compelling journalism that acknowledges when race matters to the story.
Our publisher, the Applied Research Center (ARC), has been a thought leader in the racial justice movement for 30 years. The folks at the Daily Caller and Media Watch Ohio seem particularly concerned with a consulting contract ARC had with the union SEIU. ARC does many things in addition to publishing Colorlines.com. Among them is providing training and consulting to entities that are concerned with racial equity and inclusion. SEIU has been one of ARC’s many clients, with no relationship whatsoever to our voting rights project.
But whatever. We’ve got no problem stating that we believe in workers’ right to organize. Check out our economy channel and you can read thousands of words on why we hold that value. Check out any of our channels and you can also read thousands of words of critique of both the Obama administration and the Democratic Party’s record in defending and promoting a just society–in the workplace, in schools, in healthcare, in immigration law and everywhere.
And that’s really the point. Our rightwing critics believe that we share their investment in partisan politics. As we reported throughout the election season, there is a conspicuous and troubling overlap between Republican Party activists and the nominally independent voter fraud movement. To be clear, we did not find GOP coordination of the myriad tea party groups that led the attack on voting rights this year; such coordination would likely violate the consent decree put in place by a federal court in 1982. But as recently as 2004, the party was judged to have violated that decree, and the close ties between the party and the movement certainly warrant continued scrutiny.
At Colorlines.com, we are focused on racial justice, and as such we are deeply interested in the access people of color have to democracy. We have covered the debate over that with an honesty and transparency that we wish the groups pushing the voter fraud myth shared.