The universe has kindly provided me with a timely example of something we discussed on The Pub a few episodes ago: Things get ethically sticky when journalists accept donations for the purposes of covering a specific story.
As reported by the Associated Press, NPR took money last year from the Ploughshares Fund, which was pushing the Iran nuclear deal at the time, expressly for the purposes of supporting NPR’s coverage of — what else? — the Iran nuclear deal, which included interviewing the head of Ploughshares.
Yuck. Even without any proof of quid pro quo, that doesn’t feel good. And it serves as blood-red meat to the likes of conservative-aligned media criticism site Newsbusters, which ran with the headline: “NPR Lets Funders Call the Tune.”
When I talked to Newsbusters editor Tim Graham, he conceded he has no evidence of Ploughshares directing the content of NPR’s coverage, but he also argued that’s beside the point.
“If you’re Ploughshares, when you give money to NPR, you know what you’re getting,” Graham said. “You know that you’re not going to get a Fox News. You’re going to get what may be seen as the opposite of Fox News.”
This week on the The Pub, Graham and I debate this and other conservative complaints about public media.
Also on the show, I introduce you to Suzanna Kruger, a biology teacher at Seaside High School in Oregon who used to regularly assign her students Nova videos to watch online at home — until they started running up against the new Passport paywall.
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Adam Ragusea hosts Current’s weekly podcast The Pub and is a journalist in residence and visiting assistant professor at Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism.