Jan 5, 2010

Nonprofit journalism carries political baggage

A dispute over the Washington Post's decision to use of stories from the nonprofit Fiscal Times highlights the potential pitfalls for traditional media in partnering with groups that claim editorial independence but rely on money from groups with agendas.

From Politico:

Critics are calling on The Washington Post to stop printing news articles from The Fiscal Times, a new “independent digital news publication” funded by Peter G. Peterson, a former Wall Street financier and longtime advocate of changes to Social Security.

The Post and the new publication announced an agreement last month to jointly produce content “focusing on budget and fiscal issues,” and the first article from The Fiscal Times appeared in the Post on Thursday. Headlined “Support Grows for Tackling Nation’s Debt,” it described growing momentum for “a special commission to make the tough decisions that will be required to dig the nation out of debt.”

In a letter to the Post’s ombudsman, 14 academic and public policy experts on Social Security said the newspaper should “rescind the partnership, reserve opinion pieces for the op-ed page, and not allow itself to be a propaganda arm for ideologues who use fiscal distress as a stalking horse to destroy social insurance.”

The dispute highlights the new questions that can be expected to arise as mainstream newspapers and websites increasingly partner with nonprofit groups as a source of engaging, inexpensive content. The Post and other newspapers also use stories produced by Kaiser Health News, a project of the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.

The group Campaign for America's Future has launched an email campaign to draw negative attention to the Post's partnership with The Fiscal Times.

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