• On the issue of transparency, it’s not enough to just list
funders’ names. Nonprofits should make their funding information
prominent and easily accessible, said Charles Lewis, founder of the
Center for Public Integrity. As Christa Westerberg, an attorney for the
Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council, says, 501(c)(3) organizations
must provide a copy of their application for nonprofit status and IRS
Form 990 immediately to anyone who asks in person and within 30 days to
any written request. May as well be proactive and put it out there for
all to see.
• Nonprofits should maintain walls between journalists
and donors the way for-profit papers have established walls between
editorial staff and advertisers.
Sigh. Here we go again. Here we go: It is not anybody’s job to live up to your standards but yours. And this constant hand-wringing about how we’ll know who is trustworthy and pure is starting to become so rage-inducing I can hardly read it anymore. This thing came out last week and I put off even beginning to write about it until today because … really? REALLY?
This is a new thing, this need for news organizations to be transparent about where their money comes from? Because we would never, ever, EVER need transparency from, say, the Washington Post:
The Post has been soliciting lobbyists to pay from $25,000 to $250,000
to underwrite off-the-record “salons” at the home of publisher
Katharine Weymouth that would provide access to administration and
congressional leaders and the paper’s reporters and editors.
Or fromthe Chicago Sun-Times:
Before news of the payment scandal forced Black and Radler, the former
Sun-Times publisher, to resign last fall, the two had pocketed more
than $400 million in Hollinger money over seven years–95 percent of
the company’s profits in the period, the report said.
—————Forwarded message—————From: Mosser, Kimberly
Date: Sun, May 2, 2010 at 10:12 PM
Subject: RE: Photos from The Atlantic/National JournalWHCDWeekend Kick-Off Dinner
To: “Mosser, Kimberly”
Correction: The evening was underwritten by Audi, Shell and AstraZeneca.
Or the for-profit-yet-on-the-InterwebsPolitico:
Glover Park’s clientshave included Pfizer and Coca-Cola, firmsPolitico reports on, just as it writes on the Glover Park group. Earlier this year, Politico ran thisop-ed by Victoria Esser, Glover Park’s managing director. Glover Park linked to the story on its website.
Those places don’t need to worry about people being suspicious of where their money comes from, or who is supporting them, or paying for their drinks at parties. Those newsrooms don’t have anything to prove. Why not?
I think we get to the real point when we get here:
Following up on the concept that is better to report on yourself than to have others do it for you, Toronto Star
deputy investigations editor Robert Cribb predicted that the ethics of
nonprofit newsrooms will come under heightened scrutiny from mainstream
news organizationsas nonprofits grow and compete with legacy media.
The ONLY reason we are suddenly so concerned about the credibility of nonprofit newsrooms (which, by the way, have existed for more than a hundred years in this country alone, so thanks for showing up to notice the sun came up this morning) is that they’re gaining on their competitors. If they weren’t a threat, all this worry about their ethics and their standards and who pays for their morning coffee wouldn’t exist.
And, you know, just acknowledge that, and I’ll be a little less annoyed by your asking others to measure up to a mark you invented, which will grow ever higher by the day as they close that distance between them and the media they’re vying to replace.