April 16, 2012; Source: Investigative Reporting Workshop

There is no doubt that reporting can be tainted by the source of its funding and that this affects people’s ability to participate effectively in civil society. So it should come as no surprise that the Knight Foundation, which is at the forefront of donors to journalism and also has an interest in improving civil society, has decided to require its new grantees to publicly divulge their donors as a precondition of funding.

“As media demand a more open society, society is demanding a more open media,” Michael Maness, vice president for journalism and media innovation at the Knight Foundation, said in a statement. “Transparency improves credibility and encourages engagement. People want to know who is paying for their news—and news organizations need to be transparent to ensure their own success.”

According to the foundation’s statement, “Some of the leaders in the nonprofit news field are already publicly identifying donors, many by posting their entire IRS Form 990B, which is a listing of contributors, on their websites. A report by American University’s Investigative Reporting Workshop indicates that 88 percent of the web-based nonprofit news sites surveyed post such information.”

“As nonprofit news sites continue to proliferate, their transparency will become increasingly important to our communities and our democracy. We hope that other foundations will consider a similar policy as a way to help lead journalism to its best possible future,” Maness said. –Ruth McCambridge