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Strolling Duck is a digital information startup looking for center floor in U.S. politics – TechCrunch


Can any information group bridge the separate realities that the left and proper appear to occupy in U.S. politics? A brand new startup with the odd-yet-memorable title Walking Duck goes to strive.

Strolling Duck (an inversion of a “lame duck” president and a reference to the duck test) was based by journalist Mark Halperin, in addition to Paul and Audra Wilke, who’re additionally backing it with their PR agency Upright Place Communications.

Whereas the startup is producing quite a lot of content material and occasions, together with digital city halls, there are three foremost items to the Strolling Duck technique — the Walking Duck website, which aggregates information from different publications, often centered on a couple of key tales for the day, with extra commentary; plus Halperin’s publication Wide World of News and his Newsmax present Mark Halperin’s Focus Group.

Halperin additionally serves as Strolling Duck’s managing editor, and he stated that he and the Wilkes have a shared imaginative and prescient for a publication that’s completely different from “the partisan media,” the place “the whole lot is solid by means of the lens of the crimson tribe or the blue tribe.”

And sure, aggregation is a key a part of that imaginative and prescient, not simply permitting the startup to cowl nationwide information with a comparatively small staff of 5 (for now), but in addition to supply completely different views. In reality, Halperin argued that any information group that’s being trustworthy will admit that it’s doing aggregation.

Mark Halperin's Focus Group

Picture Credit: Strolling Duck

“Even you probably have an enormous scoop about one thing, individuals wish to know: What’s the response to the inside track, how is that scoop being handled elsewhere?” he stated. “Aggregation might be smarter and quicker and fewer ideological than exists in lots of locations. You may combination for everybody the place you and elevate sensible over offended.”

In my dialog with Halperin and Paul Wilke (Strolling Duck’s CEO), I steered that the “each side” method (which other new publications are additionally touting) has its limitations: While you’ve received a (now former) president looking for to undermine an election that he misplaced, and when his supporters violently storming the Capitol, merely presenting two sides of an argument as in the event that they have been equally legitimate appears inadequate, to place it mildly.

“We don’t at all times attempt to present each side, accuracy issues,” Wilke stated. Equally, Halperin stated that it’s much less about ensuring there’s a 50-50 stability, and extra about avoiding the restrictions of a partisan lens. For example, he argued that liberal retailers demonized former FBI director James Comey after his memo might have price Hillary Clinton the 2016 election, then reversed course and valorized him after  President Trump fired him.

“I feel he needs to be coated on the person incidents in a manner that’s constant,” Halperin stated.

All of which may sound incongruous from a journalist with a present on Newsmax — which, removed from being a center-of-the-road community, has attracted an viewers by being extra pro-Trump and extra keen to unfold election misinformation than Fox Information. However Halperin and Wilke stated that by making a present that brings 4 Trump voters and 4 Biden voters (not skilled pundits) from throughout the nation collectively over Zoom and looking for widespread floor, they’re exposing conservative viewers to new factors of view — and so they’d be blissful to do the identical for liberals if the present was on MSNBC.

“Simply go to any cable information community and attempt to discover a present that’s to Trump voters and speaking to Biden voters,” Halperin stated. “We’re dong it each week. That’s the essence of making an attempt to grapple with how do these two teams discuss to one another.”

Halperin does have an existing relationship with Newsmax, which got here after he misplaced his contracts at extra mainstream networks following numerous accusations of sexual harassment.

Once I introduced the accusations in my preliminary electronic mail correspondence with Wilke, he stated, “[Mark’s] historical past is firmly in his previous. He’s expressed regret, been by means of counseling and has publicly (and privately) apologized to his victims, and so they have … accepted his apologies. Moreover, Upright (my different firm) is a PR agency that has extra girls than males, and we’re bringing a few of them over to Strolling Duck, and we mentioned this subject with them and made positive they felt snug and knew {that a} secure office was a precedence.”

I additionally broached the subject on our name, and Halperin stated, “I acknowledge the expectations that folks have. I’ve simply continued to do my greatest to be a very good colleague and a very good skilled. If individuals are keen to let me work I recognize the alternatives, nevertheless it’s as much as them.”