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Wednesday, April 17,2013

MLive hub drops Mackinac Center service

No comment from editors, promise of more details in the coming days

by Sam Inglot

Wednesday, April 17 — Well, that didn’t last long. The Bay City MLive hub has dropped from its website an online legislative tracking system run by the conservative Mackinac Center for Public Policy. The decision came after two days of criticism from progressives and some MLive readers.

Rob Clark, editor of the Saginaw-Bay City hub, wouldn’t comment on why it dropped the use of MichiganVotes.org, but promised to release more details “explaining what happened” in a column in the next few days. An MLive editor in Lansing referred questions to Clark.

MichiganVotes.org is a vote- and bill-tracking service that is run by the Mackinac Center, a conservative think tank based in Midland. On Monday, an MLive story used the data from the service and referenced it as a “free, non-partisan website created by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.”

The very next day, Progress Michigan was quick to criticize MLive for the using the service.

“The Mackinac Center has about as much credibility as an unbiased think tank as Dave Agema would have at a pride parade,” Progress Michigan executive director Zach Pohl wrote on Tuesday. Progress Michigan is a progressive political organization based in Lansing.

By today, Clark had contacted Pohl to tell him MLive would no longer use the service. Pohl wrote a follow-up blog post today telling readers that the hub would be using “internal resources” to track legislation.

Dan Armstrong, marketing and communications team leader for the Mackinac Center, said MLive approached the think tank about a month ago with interest in using the vote-tracking service. Armstrong said MLive planned on using the data on a weekly basis.

As for MLive dropping the service as soon as they touched it, “They told us it was something they wanted to take on themselves,” Armstrong said.

He said he was told that it was not a “reactionary” response to criticisms MLive received from people and groups like Progress Michigan for aligning itself with a notably conservative organization.

The first — and only — post that used the Mackinac Center’s service received several comments from readers, two of which were critical of MLive’s use of the service.

As user Stevens Mason put it: “Only a fool would believe that content provided by the Mackinac Center is non-partisan. Hey M-Live, lie down with dogs and you'll wake up with their fleas.”

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