Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Writing the Rules of the Road

So exactly how do foundations and other donors decide which journalism nonprofits to support? This is not a question many journalists spend a lot of time thinking about. But they should.

As Steve Katz, a top fundraiser for Mother Jones, reminds us, funders are a fickle lot. And so far, there are no rules of the road for supporting journalism. The risk: Even the most accurate, best-intended journalist is certain to be accused of bias simply by virtue of having taking money from somebody and/or their foundation.

If nonprofit journalism is to have any value as a public good, Steve argues, funders they need to develop some standards for handing out the cash. In his blog, he recommends that "philanthropic decision making regarding support for investigative journalism as a public good needs to be organized itself as a transparent, public-facing, collaborative process."

Some suggestions: Create a common application form or create an "RFP/open invitation approach." He adds:

(I)t may be time to begin discussions within philanthropy about forming a new affinity group specifically focused on investigative journalism (or journalism generally). Grantmakers in Film and Electronic Media (GFEM), an existing foundation affinity group, has a mission that could conceivably be tweaked to make this happen, but I don’t know enough about how they work to say for sure.

It would be a start.

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