Los Angeles blogger Karen Wolfe started the inquiry about the ethics of the Los Angeles Times accepting a subsidy from billionaire Eli Broad for its education coverage even as he is one of the major figures covered. She posted a statement by distinguished journalist Paul Sussman, who literally wrote the book on ethics in journalism; Sussman said the Times has “a massive conflict of interest” by accepting money from a person it covers on the issue he is engaged in.
Blogger Alexander Russo, who is funded by the AFT and Education Post (which is funded by Broad, among others) contends that the issue is more complex than it seems. He draws attention to many other major media that are subsidized by the wealthy.
Yes, others do it too. Last year, investigative reporter David Sirota caused PBS to return a multimillion dollar grant from the John Arnold Foundation. The program was going to reveal the”pension crisis,” a subject that Arnold feels strongly about. PBS was embarrassed by the appearance of a conflict of interest.
The he larger problem behinds these skirmishes is whether we have a free press, one that will dare to expose the misdeeds of the mighty. This will be hard to do if they are subsidized by the mighty.
Blogger Anthony Cody assesses the matter and, as usual, brings clarity to it.
“I want to add one additional point, which I made at some length in this earlier post. It is not “neutral” or “objective” to expand coverage of “innovation” in education. It is not “neutral” or “objective” to have sections of a publication focused on “what is working” in education. The Gates Foundation has made clear that they are very interested in promoting the idea that technology is of tremendous educational value. Stories that trumpet success in this arena are not neutral. They advance the agenda of those selling technological solutions to human problems in education. The act of “focusing on success” sidelines serious criticism of this approach. Journalism that focuses primarily on success misses one of the crucial roles that true journalists must play.
“Solutions to this may be, as Russo suggests, “unlikely or unworkable.” Undoing the corporate influence on the newsrooms of America is not going to be easy. But acknowledging we have a serious problem would be a valuable first step. An important second step would be to recognize independent bloggers as a critical part of the field of education journalism.”