The Nerve’s Rick Brundrett makes CJR, courtesy of Corey Hutchins

I remember Rick Brundrett as a reporter in The State‘s newsroom. He left the paper about the same time I did. He now reports for The Nerve, the online publication run by the S.C, Policy Council. Which means he’s written a good bit about Bobby Harrell lately.

Corey Hutchins writes about Rick in the latest edition of Columbia Journalism Review. Here’s a passage that quotes somebody else who’s been writing a good bit about Harrell:

“The Nerve is not the propaganda arm of the Policy Council. We are a news site, so I’m covering it as a news story,” he continued. “But, that being said, I can’t ignore that our parent organization is the one that initiated this and I can’t ignore statements that have been made public by our president. I can’t ignore documents that were filed by the parent organization. I wouldn’t do that if I were a mainstream journalist, and I’m not going to do it here … I’m in, quote, ‘the alternative media’ world now, but I’m still doing what I consider to be traditional journalism and following traditional journalism practices.”

That’s an accurate description of his work, according to those have followed his writing through the years. And, though I wrote a pretty critical piece about the Policy Council shortly after it launched The Nerve a few years ago, it’s one I agree with. While I didn’t say so explicitly then, I worried, like others, that The Nerve and its writers would become weaponized journalistic functionaries of its parent organization. I’ve since come around. Brundrett’s copy can sometimes take a prosecutorial tone, but he plays it straight.

“He seems to be still following the same sort of rules that we do in mainstream journalism,” says Cindi Scoppe, the opinion page editor of The State, Columbia’s daily paper, where Brundrett worked from 1998 to 2009. If there’s an ideological bent to his work, she says, it’s in his selection of stories: The Policy Council, which crusades for ethics reform and seeks to reduce the legislature’s power, is clearly invested in the Harrell investigation, and The Nerve has been all over it. But that’s not much different from Scoppe’s own approach as a columnist—and the story is one that any journalist focused on how power is exercised here would grab on to.

As Scoppe told me about the Harrell-Wilson duel, “Frankly, if you tell any good reporter ‘Go look at this,’ and you’re Ashley Landess, you’re going to be happy with what they come up with.”…