Building news savvy: Best practices
Following the money
WHAT IS IT?
People want to understand the money behind the news. Best practices include publishing information about where a news organization’s revenue comes from, including grants and donations. In addition, it is helpful to publish information about ownership of the news outlet and ethics policies related to editorial independence from sources of funding
WHO’S BEHIND IT?
Many nonprofit news organizations already detail funding. NJ Spotlight and the Center for Investigative Reporting, for example, list major donors. Texas Tribune is among those that note when a donor is mentioned in a news story. ProPublica’s disclosure page is a model. The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism explains that funders “exercise no control…” On the commercial side, The Economist details its ownership structure.
DOES IT WORK?
Based on consumer research, the Trusting News Project at Reynolds Journalism Institute recommends that news organizations disclose their funding sources and policies. News consumers often assume corporate interests or donors control the editorial process, when at quality outlets that is not the case. Trusting News partner newsrooms have begun testing these and other practices.
HOW TO DO IT
A major study led the American Press Institute to offer this guidance on funding transparency for nonprofit news organizations and these ideas for for-profit newsrooms. Include information about funding, ownership and ethics policies on an “About” or “Who we are” page on the news organization’s website and feature links to that page on news stories.