Public Editor

Don’t assume readers know political ideology

Updated: 2013-05-29T15:00:23Z

It’s sometimes easy for any of us to consider our own realm of experience as “normal,” and to therefore sometimes forget that other people don’t have the same set of references. It’s true whether we’re talking about niche interests in video games, crafts, public policy or politics.

An emailer pointed out an instance where a story in The Star and on KansasCity.com made what some people would consider a leap by not giving a bit of background on a think tank mentioned in a story.

She wrote:

I read the article … on the Core Standards. Most of the sources you quote are school superintendents, school officials or even school board reps. There is also a source from the Show-Me Institute.

While all sources except the Show-Me Institute are self-evident as affiliated with the schools discussed in the article, I don’t know anything about this Show-me Institute (which piqued my curiosity). They have one of those commonplace/androgynous names that shed no light on their temperament…kind of like Citizens for Prosperity, or Victory Project, or American Crossroads.

After doing some looking around on the Internet, she discovered the Show-Me Institute comes in for some pretty heavy criticism in some corners. It’s a public-policy think tank that says its researchers “ seek to move beyond the 20th-century mindset that every problem has a government solution.” Its president is Rex Sinquefield and its chairman is Crosby Kemper III. Sinquefield in particular is a controversial figure, as he has contributed money to campaigns to do away with Missouri’s income tax and replace it with sales tax revenue.

We can of course all agree to disagree on whether the Show-Me Institute’s libertarian advice is right or wrong. But my emailer’s overall point is solid: Since its ideology isn’t evident, it would have been a good idea to describe it, even minimally in the story. And that’s a concept that should be applied across the board, whether the groups are on the left, center or right.

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