‘The Pub’ #63: The ethics of foundation-supported journalism

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If you do journalism that is financially supported by foundations and other nonprofits, I think you should be concerned about a finding in a new American Press Institute survey.

“We asked the funders, ‘Which of the following comes closer to why you fund journalism: Is it part of your larger advocacy work, or are you doing it just to make journalism better?’ And it was an even split,” said API Executive Director Tom Rosenstiel on The Pub.

Think about that. If only half of the foundations that underwrite journalism are doing it to support a better-informed public, what are the other half of them in it for? Are journalists allowing themselves to be the instruments of other people’s policy advocacy?

Rosenstiel and his co-authors on the API report (read it here) surveyed both journalists and funders to get a sense of their respective expectations. What are funders looking to get out of paying for journalism? What do journalists do to maintain their editorial independence?

This week on The Pub, Rosenstiel and I talk through the study and its implications for how newsrooms should relate to their benefactors.

Also on the show, NPR’s Jim Zarroli rejects the label of “he said, she said” journalism applied to his work on last week’s episode by NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen, and I talk about the one thing that men — yes, men — should never do at a Q&A session (inspired by my trip to see Slate’s Political Gabfest live in Atlanta).

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We welcome your feedback on the show: You can reach me at [email protected] or @aragusea on Twitter; my supervising producer at Current, Mike Janssen, is at [email protected]; and you can contact Current generally at [email protected] or @currentpubmedia on Twitter.

If you’d like to offer a comment to be used in the program, please send on-mic tape (recorded in a studio, with a kit, a smartphone, anything) to [email protected] either as an attachment or through Google Drive. Please keep it short!

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.

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