Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Show me the money--and the donor

In an effort to promote free speech abroad, Yahoo gave $1 million to a fellowship program at Stanford University for journalists from countries where the press is under attack. It’s nothing new for a journalism program to take donations from corporations, but some say Stanford shouldn't have accepted the money given that in 2004 Yahoo turned over user data information to the Chinese authorities, which led to the arrests of some journalists.

In Yahoo’s defense, execs say the company had no choice but to comply with the government's requests, and the grant to Stanford has no strings attached. But all gifts are not free. If nothing else, taking the money has cost the Knight Fellowship the respect of some alumni. Is it worth it?

Better yet, does taking money from corporations and wealthy private donors compromise the independence and integrity of a journalism program? And are we willing to make those sacrifices given the potential payoff?

I’d love to get journalistically righteous and say taking money from individuals or companies that have violated journalistic principles in the past is wrong under any circumstance, but it's not that simple. Such a policy might leave universities that are dependent on large donations without the scholarships and computer labs necessary to train future journalists, and I'm not ready to pay that price.

Read more here

Posted by AJ


At Friday, October 06, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is definitely a tricky topic. I guess there is no hard fast rule about whether journalism programs should or should not take money from corporations or private donors. We can't say whether it should always be done or never because the bottom line is, we need the money.

On a case by case basis, programs should definitely keep in mind who the donor is. Trying not to focus on the "free" money might be hard, but I think depending on the source, problems can be alleviated. And I'm not sure about the legal standpoint of how donations or monetary gifts are dealt with but maybe there could be a way to have it in contract that there truly are "no strings attached."

Well, to some degree, realistically.

- AL

At Sunday, October 08, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While it is a tricky topic, I think you also have to consider the benefit outweighing the negative repercussions. If the program will be enhanced through the donor's gift, then it might help produce better quality journalists than if no gift was accepted.



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