Universalis, your very own breviary in pixels...

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Does the Arcus Foundation's Grant of $120,000 to the Religion Newswriters Foundation Matter?

This article in the National Catholic Register certainly presumes that it does.
Arcus, which describes itself as,
dedicated to the idea that people can live in harmony with one another and the natural world. We believe respect for diversity among peoples and in nature is essential to a positive future for our planet and all its inhabitants, 
awards grants as a means of
Investing in the emerging leaders and activists who will guide the LGBT movement over the next generation. ....Organizations that received funding include several that work across sectors, bringing the LGBT-rights movement together with racial-justice, immigrant -rights, and reproductive-rights struggles.
These organzation, Arcus claims, will,
support Arcus’ goal of increasing the capacity and influence of pro-LGBT religious leaders and advocates around the globe.
Among which organizations, it numbers the Religious Newswriters' Foundation, in hopes it will
[Foster] a culture of LGBT understanding through the media...[by] produc[ing] feature stories and blog posts about religion and LGBT communities of color.
RNF is the "educational and charitable arm" of the Religion Newswriters Association, a non-profit professional association which tries to promote better reporting on religion in media and to help journalists who cover religion, (who, it must be granted, are often terribly ignorant of their subject,) do so
with balance, accuracy and insight. 
The Religion News Service, a non-profit affiliate of the RNA, is probably it's most public face, for the very reason that many media organizations have no one on staff with much understanding of religion -- the RNS is there with stories and headlines ready for the printing, presumably demonstrating this "balance and accuracy" oh, and "insight."
Now the Foundation, (the "educaitonal and charitable" person of this trinity,) has policies and ethics and by-laws. It won't take money from just anyone.
All gifts are accepted on a case-by-case basis. RNF reserves the right to decline or return any donation which, in the opinion of the board or the board's designees, may conflict with these principles or otherwise damage the integrity of the organization. Gifts from explicitly religious institutions such as denominations or judicatures shall not be accepted.
One would, no, I would presume this is intended to preserve not only an objectivity regarding its work, but also the appearance of objectivity.
Any lack of same would be most evident in that public face of the trinity, RNS, I should think.
Is it evident?  How do you see it?
RNF shall strive for an array of individual donors, so as not to be, or appear to be, overly dependent on donations from any particular sector, ideological perspective or type of individuals beyond the journalism community.
RNF's board, volunteer leadership, and staff are to remain in control of all programming, including agenda, speakers and topics, and no outside funding sources may be represented [emphasis supplied] as sponsors or co-sponsors of RNF events, without prior approval of RNF's executive director. 
This phrasing seem to me to acknowledge that perception juuuuuust might be reality, so there are times it is more important to them that knowledge of their funding sources clear advocating for something or other not get out, than that they not partner with advocacy groups.
That may or may not be a fair construction on my part.
Both RNA and RNF have by-laws concerning conflict of interest, but they seem concerned with monetary, (or easily converted to monetary,) gain, not advocacy; advocacy, say, that might influence the objectivity of opinions that might be dishonestly presented as as facts, or, say, encourage lying in an effort to besmirch the reputation of an advocate for a position other than that of the "journalist."

It is not for me to say, (oh my, I'm turning into Francis Urquart!) that cash, say in amounts like $120,000, from an advocacy group to the parent organization of a "news source" striving to "inform and illuminate" would be likely to influence that source's objectivity, or give the appearance of a lack thereof.

It is not for me to say that any of this matters.

But the Arcus Foundation, which, to remind you, gives grant for the express purpose of,
"investing in the emerging leaders and activists who will guide the LGBT movement" 
sure seems to think it's worth trying....

No comments: