Apparently, this has been going on for at least the past week, but I only noticed it this morning. I was reading an article on "How a Loophole Benefits GE in Bank Rescue", and realized the byline was a bit odd. It was a double byline that looked like this:
By Jeff Gerth and Brady Dennis
ProPublica and Washington Post Staff Writer
On their website, the Washington Post explains the shared story:
About This Story This article was reported jointly with Jeff Gerth of ProPublica, an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. ProPublica is supported entirely by philanthropy and provides the articles it produces, free of charge, both through its own Web site and to leading news organizations.
What does it mean when an advocacy organization can write for the Washington Post? "Hey yeah, Woodward, we want you to do this investigative piece on theft of campaign documents. We're going to team you up with a journalist from the Heritage Foundation."
Now Heritage Foundation isn't ProPublica, but I think you see my point (It's hard to make an equivalent, because I don't know of any right-wing journalist advocacy organizations. I'm not sure what that says about the right-wing). How will this affect coverage and the framing of stories? ProPublica hasn't not been immune to attacks of bias. In fact the second heading on their wikipedia page is "Concerns about bias":
Because ProPublica received the vast majority of its initial funding through the Sandlers – known for donating heavily to left-wing advocacy groups – there were concerns that the organization would not maintain an independent and non-partisan editorial stance toward the subjects it investigates. In addition, Slate senior writer Jack Shafer noted that Herb Sandler has given "hundreds of thousands of dollars" to Democratic party candidates over the years, as well as millions to left-leaning or progressive political advocacy organizations such as MoveOn and ACORN. The Sandler Family Supporting Foundation has also made grants to Oceana, Rocky Mountain Institute, Environmental Defense and the Tides Foundation.
Of course, where do you get funding for journalism nowadays? Well, unfortunately, I'm not sure you can get it from a place that isn't pretty civicly involved on one side of the aisle or the other. Wearing an intern directors cap, it's neat to think about putting an intern to work at ProPublica and seeing their work appear in the Washington Post (you can't do anything but a coffee-fetching internship in the Washington Post newsroom because of union regulations. You can do a bit more in the WashingtonPost.com--it's in northern Virginia, out of union territory). But this is worrisome in terms of the future of journalism. I would suspect that the Post is embracing ProPublica as a result of short staffing. But what is lost in this arrangement?