Some other material they’ve produced is more like propaganda. Take their on the ground coverage of the fight over Republican Governor Scott Walker’s effort to remove collective bargaining rights for public employees. “While other media outlets did little more than relay union protesters’ grievances,” says Bluey, “we produced a Myths vs. Facts video, scored a sit-down interview with Gov. Scott Walker, and teamed with to report on other state budget showdowns.” The “Myth vs Facts” video portrays the pro-union protesters as unhinged extremists by opening and closing with random women comparing Walker’s actions to those of Nazis, and juxtaposes them with conservatives speaking in a measured tone. Another video gives Walker’s interview snippets with no critical context or even audible questions. It might as well have been produced by his own press office.

The investigative reporter will be, like Bluey, part of Heritage’s communications team, a situation that Bluey says does not present any journalistic quandaries. Gonzales notes that not every story the CMPP has done has been especially ideologically motivated. Gonzales points to Bluey’s reporting on the State Department, via the Voice of America Program, offering funding to the BBC, as an example of non-ideological muckraking. “A story’s a story, that’s what gets my juices flowing,” says Gonzalez, who worked in both the news and opinion sections of The Wall Street Journal.

Bluey points to another conservative think tank that is getting into the reporting game as a model: the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, which sponsors a network of statehouse reporters. Started in 2008, they now have reporters in 41 states, covering such issues as local disbursement of the federal stimulus spending program. “The work that think tanks and independent nonprofit journalists produce has never been more needed and valued than it is right now,” writes Jason Stverak, the Franklin Center’s president. Now there’s a rare statement that both liberals and conservatives could agree on.

Ben Adler covers climate-change policy for Grist and is a contributing editor for CJR