Can a database spin?

That’s the concern some journalists have about the free classes in computer-assisted reporting being offered by the conservative Heritage Foundation.

“Computer-assisted reporting moves journalism from what is essentially anecdote-based … to fact-based,” said Mark Tapscott, director of Heritage’s Center for Media and Public Policy. That is especially valuable when it comes to promoting free-market views, where too often the anecdotal evidence focuses on the tough-luck cases while missing the long-term effects of government intervention in the economy.

Or as Tapscott put it: “Heritage has sufficient confidence that our perspective on the issues corresponds to reality.” But is Heritage somehow teaching these skills in such a way that it advances conservative causes. It’s hard to imagine how. My guess is that Heritage just thinks that planting the idea in reporters’ heads that looking at the data is an important element of a story — and teaching them how to do that in a basic way — will wind up helping them in the long run.

Is it a conflict of interest for journalists? I think that as long as the classes are strictly non-ideological, there’s no problem. And anyway, what’s wrong with being exposed to different viewpoints. Since when is this a dangerous thing for a journalist?