Think Tank Citations Sink

"The 25 most media-prominent think tanks were cited 17 percent less in 2007 than they were the year before," according to an annual survey by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). "The overall ideological breakdown was the same ... 47 percent of citations went to centrist think tanks, 37 percent to conservative or right-leaning think tanks, and 16 percent to progressive or left-leaning think tanks." The downward trend "is not necessarily a bad thing. ... Given that FAIR's surveys have consistently found that these supposedly detached experts actually tilt toward the center-right, fewer of them spinning and shaping news coverage may be a net plus for media transparency, if not diversity." The current issue of FAIR's magazine "Extra!" also contains the group's annual "Fear & Favor" report. Among the news outlets mentioned is Portland's KOIN-TV, which CMD documented airing a video news release. KOIN merited mention for its "weekly medical report," which is sponsored by Providence Health Systems and consistently features Providence experts and information.


Living abroad it is perhaps logical for me to have a different perception of what is considered "conservative", "progressive" and "centrist". FAIR's analysis, however, seems a little too ethnocentric.

In fact it takes some acrobatics in logic to understand Brookings as "centrist" - it is as "centrist" as the DLC/PPI, which is to say not centrist at all. Sourcewatch itself notes collaboration with AEI and funding by the likes of Olin.

Perhaps what is lacking in FAIR's assessment is an adequate definition of what is "progressive" and "conservative", one not relying on the rather shallow two-dimensional spectrum. Perhaps something on the line of the "political compass'" spectrum, showing both social and economic axis could be useful.

FWIW, I classify any org that propounds neoliberal economics as "conservative" economically, one that supports any of the -Keynesian ideals as being "progressive". Orgs that support increased defense spending, hawkish policies, Federalist Society jurisprudence and the like, I classify as "conservative" politically/socially. Orgs supporting decreased defense spending, internationalism, etc--- you get the picture.

Of course, from a European POV virtually the entire list of thinktanks provided by FAIR would start at "center-right" and move to the right from there. Then again the "framing" of the almost nonexistent and overlapping "ideological divide" in the US probably contributes to this in no small way.