BISMARCK — A North Dakota Democratic lawmaker will work as a reporter for two major news outlets in the state but will avoid covering state politics and other topics that could raise questions about impartiality, he said Thursday, May 16.
Rep. Matt Eidson, who just completed his first session representing a Grand Forks district, has been hired as a freelancer for the Grand Forks Herald and has an unpaid internship with Prairie Public. For the Herald, he's slated to cover military issues — Eidson is a Marine Corps veteran — as well as city government and stories in neighboring Minnesota.
Eidson said his Prairie Public coverage will include the University of North Dakota, which receives funding from the state Legislature. But he said he'll be careful to be "as middle of the road" as he can while reporting.
"I have to be mindful of my bias just as any journalist would have to be mindful of their bias," Eidson said.
Still, Prairie Public News Director Dave Thompson acknowledged having a lawmaker working as a reporter is "highly unusual."
Eidson said he's long been interested in journalism and hopes to eventually work in the field. He said he hasn't made any definite plans about his future in the Legislature.
Herald Publisher Korrie Wenzel said Eidson’s hire was driven in part by open positions that have been hard to fill and his experience. Eidson wrote for the Herald before running for the Legislature and was the top editor at the University of North Dakota’s student newspaper.
But Wenzel acknowledged he was “very hesitant” to hire Eidson because he’s a member of the Republican-controlled Legislature. He said they’ll both look out for any conflicts that could arise with his political position, adding that legislative coverage will be off-limits.
The Herald, like Forum News Service, is owned by Forum Communications Co.
Thompson said Eidson will avoid "anything that smacks of partisan politics." Prairie Public receives funding from the state.
Richard Glynn, the GOP chairman in Eidson's district, hoped the lawmaker would maintain journalistic integrity but didn't have immediate concerns about the arrangement.