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Providing a much-needed voice of economic literacy

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Conservative Spotlight: Free Market Project

Providing a much-needed voice of economic literacy

As the former president of Godfather’s Pizza and the ex-CEO of the National Restaurant Association, Herman Cain mastered the ins and outs of the business world. Now, as national chairman of the Media Research Center’s Free Market Project, Cain hopes to educate the news media about economics, an area he would like to see journalists devote more time and energy to covering. The Free Market Project was the brainchild of L. Brent Bozell III, president of the Media Research Center, who launched the division in 1992 with the goal of rooting out anti-business sentiment in the mainstream media. Today, the Free Market Project continues to document media bias related to business news, and works to improve reporting by educating journalists. Since taking the reins as the Free Market Project’s national chairman in August, Cain has devoted much of his time to improving what he calls “economic literacy.” In addition to doing television, radio and newspaper interviews on behalf of the organization, he plans to start a separate Atlanta-based group called A New Voice in early 2005. Cain will also be the host of a weekly radio program in Atlanta. “I’m going to be a voice of economic literacy,” Cain told HUMAN EVENTS. “Because there hasn’t been a voice out there, this is why I see it as a tremendous opportunity for the Free Market Project. Every opportunity I get to correct some of these misperceptions about economics and business principles, that’s what I’m going to do.” Documenting the mainstream media’s anti-business bias takes hours of research by the Free Market Project’s staff at the Media Research Center’s Alexandria, Va., headquarters. Director Dan Gainor and Research Analyst Charles Simpson comb through media reports–primarily television broadcasts–to determine what journalists are saying and doing when it comes to economic news. Updates are posted on FreeMarketProject.org. Cain described himself as the face of the Free Market Project, and he said he was delighted to accept Bozell’s invitation to become its national chairman. Before accepting the post, Cain ran for the U.S. Senate seat in Georgia. He finished second in the Republican primary, behind the state’s new Sen.-elect Johnny Isakson. Cain said he’s now content to focus exclusively on economic literacy. “We face a lot of issues in this country and every issue is the most important issue to somebody,” he told HUMAN EVENTS. “I’m trying to focus more people on those issues that are not partisan, and they shouldn’t be, but are issues that we all must face and address in order to perpetuate a sound economic future for all of us.” With President Bush vowing to make domestic economic issues an signature of his second term, Cain said it’s an important time to make sure someone is standing up for balanced reporting when the news media begins examining proposals for reforming the tax code, improving Social Security, and getting a handle on runaway healthcare costs. “I’m trying to elevate the focus and discussion on those issues above partisan politics,” Cain said, “because they will hurt all of us long term if we do not depoliticize the sense of urgency to fix those big issues.” Gainor, the project’s director and a former journalist himself, said the Free Market Project has plans in the works to keep close tabs on the economic issues in a second Bush term. He said working with reporters would be one of his top priorities, because he strongly believes that educating Americans about economics starts with educating the news media. “We have to work with journalists and not just smack them upside the head,” Gainor told HUMAN EVENTS. “We have to actually try to help them do a better job.” One of the Free Market Project’s recent studies focused on the news media’s coverage of the Kyoto treaty, which would have imposed restrictions on U.S. businesses that were advocated by environmentalists. Even though the Kyoto language was strongly denounced by a nearly unanimous U.S. Senate in 1997, the news media routinely neglected to mention it. NBC, CBS, and CNN also failed to mention the $440 billion annual cost of implementing the Kyoto standards. The results of the study were sent to journalists. Gainor said some wanted to debate the Free Market Project’s analysis, but he hoped all reporters who cover environmental news or Kyoto-related developments would in the future present information that has been lacking, including the scientific debate over global warming. “If you can change how one journalist handles a story–so they handle it in a more informed an balanced way–that one journalist might reach 1 million people,” Gainor said. “You can’t understate the importance of doing that.” The Free Market Project may be reached at 325 S. Patrick St., Alexandria, Va., 22314 (phone 703-683-9733; www.freemarketproject.org).

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Written By

Mr. Bluey, a contributing editor to Human Events, is director of the Center for Media & Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation. He maintains a blog at RobertBluey.com.

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