Conservatives sometimes joke that major media outlets are as biased as Pravda, the infamous state-run newspaper of the Soviet Union. But in Texas, we literally have taxpayer-funded media outlets.

A search of state records show that taxpayers paid $111,195.85 and $44,299.32 to the Austin websites Quorum Report and the Texas Tribune, respectively, in 2014 and 2015. (The Tribune also enjoys unprecedented support from the University of Texas at Austin, both in dollars and in-kind support in the form of facilities for TribFest and a sweetheart polling deal.)

The Texas Tribune discloses those donors who choose to be listed on their website. On the other hand, it is entirely unknown what entities underwrite the operation of the gossip-centered Quorum Report, though sources have long insisted that Austin’s top lobby operations purchase excessive numbers of subscriptions to the website in the hopes of securing favorable coverage for their clients.

Both publications tend to defend established power brokers and Austin special interests, though the Quorum Report has even further devolved in recent years into a pure disinformation campaign attacking the conservative grassroots and leaders.

But the joke is on them.

Unlike the Soviet Union, real hardworking Texans have a choice in where they go for news. Independent polling has confirmed that Quorum Report has no readership base amongst registered voters statewide, and the Texas Tribune’s readership base is about half that of just one of Texas’ major daily newspapers.

The two outlets may print stories their patrons in government want to hear, but that only serves to amplify an Austin echo chamber that was already blinding Austin’s power brokers to the on-the-ground realities of Texas politics.

The Austin establishment failed to see Ted Cruz coming. With taxpayer-funded media outlets telling them what they want to hear, they’ll fail to see the next conservative insurgency as well. For that, maybe funding Texas’ Pravda is worth the price.

Tony McDonald

Tony McDonald serves as General Counsel to Texas Scorecard. A licensed and practicing attorney, Tony specializes in the areas of civil litigation, legislative lawyering, and non-profit regulatory compliance. Tony resides in Austin with his wife and daughter and attends St. Paul Lutheran Church.


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