Nav: Home

Foundation funding changes international reporting

January 10, 2019

Funding by private foundations is inadvertently changing the international journalism it supports, according to a new study led by the University of East Anglia (UEA).

Researchers found that journalists change the ways they understand, value and carry out their work when supported by organisations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation.

This is not because foundations deliberately try to influence editorial decision making at the news organisations they fund. Few do, and maintaining editorial independence is very important to both journalists and foundations. However, the nature of foundation funding does cause three important changes to international reporting.

First, in order to secure and retain foundation funding, journalists carry out new marketing and administrative tasks. This often takes a significant amount of time away from their editorial work, leading to a reduction in news output.

Second, foundations often require news outlets to provide evidence of the impact of their work. This incentivises journalists to produce longer-form, off-agenda content aimed at influencing specialist audiences, rather than shorter, timelier pieces for wider audiences.

Third, foundation funding usually supports coverage of specific thematic areas, such as Global Development. However, this encourages journalists to focus on a relatively narrow range of topics that broadly align with the priorities of the most active foundations.

Publishing their findings in the journal Journalism Studies, the researchers conclude that foundation funding unintentionally reshapes international journalism to favour outcome-oriented, explanatory reporting in a small number of niche subject areas.

Between 2011 and 2015, foundations awarded grants worth more than $US1.3 billion annually to media and journalism, according to Media Impact Funders. It has even been suggested that foundations may offer a partial solution to journalism's economic crisis.

The study was conducted by Dr Martin Scott of UEA's School of International Development, Dr Mel Bunce from City, University of London, and Dr Kate Wright at the University of Edinburgh.

Lead author Dr Scott said: "Foundations support a significant amount of important international journalism. Without it, very few of the non-profit news outlets we spoke to would survive. But we are concerned that the nature of this journalism - and the role that it plays in democracy - is inadvertently being shaped by a handful of foundations, rather than by journalists themselves.

"For journalists collaborating with foundations, one of the key implications of the study is to consider not just how to protect their independence, but also to reflect on what kinds of journalism they want to produce."
-end-
The study, which was funded by the UK's Arts and Humanities Research Council, involved 74 interviews with representatives from the most active foundations funding international non-profit news, intermediary organisations and the journalists they support.

'Foundation funding and the boundaries of journalism', Martin Scott, Mel Bunce and Kate Wright, is published online in Journalism Studies on January 11.

University of East Anglia

Related Journalism Articles:

Immersive journalism in a post-truth world
Immersive journalism allows viewers to have an intensely subjective experience of an objective situation.
New study reveals why people pay for news and what it means for future of journalism
Slightly more than half of all US adults pay for news, with roughly half of those subscribing to a newspaper, according to a study conducted by the Media Insight Project, a collaboration between the American Press Institute and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
The survival of journalism is fraught with danger and being squeezed from all directions
Around the world there are squeezes on press freedom from all directions, and with the rise of what has been dubbed 'fake-news', it is a time for thorough journalism, says Rachael Jolley, editor of the Index on Censorship Magazine, on the publication of a special report called 'The Big Squeeze: Freedom of Speech Under Pressure'.
Robo-journalism: Journalists on their robot pretenders
In spite of its limitations, automated journalism will expand. According to media researchers, this development underlines the need for critical, contextualized journalism.
Winners of the 2016 AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards
Consequential stories on important issues in medical research are among the winners of the 2016 AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards, including a Swedish documentary that raised disturbing questions about the research conduct of a surgeon at the famed Karolinska Institute, a series in a small weekly newspaper that challenged claims of a local breast cancer epidemic, and a report that researchers at leading US medical institutions routinely disregarded a law on reporting of study results.
WHOI announces 2016 Ocean Science Journalism Fellows
Seven writers, radio, and multimedia science journalists from the US, England, and India have been selected to participate in the competitive Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Ocean Science Journalism Fellowship program.
Journalism fellowships will highlight new developments in aging
The Journalists in Aging Fellows Program, run jointly by The Gerontological Society of America and New America Media since its launch in 2010, has received renewed grant support to welcome its seventh cohort of fellows.
How citizen journalism can lead to cyber bullying
Citizen journalism is often seen as a more democratic form of journalism, where the public contributes to the reporting, analysis and dissemination of news.
Kaiser Health News Senior Correspondent receives Endocrine Society journalism award
Kaiser Health News Senior Correspondent Julie Rovner received the Endocrine Society's annual Award for Excellence in Science and Medical Journalism, the Society announced today.
Terri Cook and Phil McKenna awarded EGU Science Journalism Fellowship
The European Geosciences Union has named journalists Terri Cook and Phil McKenna as the winners of its 2016 Science Journalism Fellowship.

Related Journalism Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Don't Fear Math
Why do many of us hate, even fear math? Why are we convinced we're bad at it? This hour, TED speakers explore the myths we tell ourselves and how changing our approach can unlock the beauty of math. Guests include budgeting specialist Phylecia Jones, mathematician and educator Dan Finkel, math teacher Eddie Woo, educator Masha Gershman, and radio personality and eternal math nerd Adam Spencer.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#517 Life in Plastic, Not Fantastic
Our modern lives run on plastic. It's in the computers and phones we use. It's in our clothing, it wraps our food. It surrounds us every day, and when we throw it out, it's devastating for the environment. This week we air a live show we recorded at the 2019 Advancement of Science meeting in Washington, D.C., where Bethany Brookshire sat down with three plastics researchers - Christina Simkanin, Chelsea Rochman, and Jennifer Provencher - and a live audience to discuss plastics in our oceans. Where they are, where they are going, and what they carry with them. Related links:...