JOURNALISTS DONATE TO CANDIDATES

Howie Kurtz has an interesting column below the fold on the front of today’s WaPo: Journalists Not Loath to Donate To Politicians

More than 100 journalists and executives at major media companies, from NBC’s top executive to a Fox News anchor to reporters or editors for the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, CBS and ABC, have made political contributions in recent years.

Some of these donations, detailed in Federal Election Commission records, violate the companies’ own policies. But these policies vary widely; some media firms allow donations, others bar them for newsroom employees but not business staffers, and still others restrict only those covering politics.

NBC chief executive Robert Wright has contributed $8,000 since 1999, including $3,500 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and $1,000 to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Andrew Lack, a former NBC News chief, gave $1,000 to Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) while NBC president, and Wright contributed $1,500 — after the House committee Tauzin chairs held hearings on the networks’ election night failures. NBC spokeswoman Allison Gollust said the network allows its executives to make contributions and that Wright “does not make any decisions specific to news coverage.”

Fox anchor Neil Cavuto, the network’s managing editor for business, gave $1,000 to a fundraising dinner for President Bush in 2002.

“I wish he hadn’t,” said Fox News Vice President John Moody, who responded by circulating a policy Friday that discourages such contributions. “I hope our people will follow the advice I’ve given to them voluntarily. The potential perception is that they favor one candidate over the other.” But he said he wouldn’t ban the practice.

A Fox producer for Oliver North, Griffin Jenkins, gave $2,000 to the Bush-Cheney reelection committee.

Melanie Kirkpatrick, associate editor of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, donated $20,000 to the Republican National Committee and $1,000 to Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign. Editorial Page Editor Paul Gigot said there are no prohibitions for those on the opinion side of the newspaper and that Kirkpatrick had obtained permission from his predecessor, the late Robert Bartley.

Asked about his staff making political donations now, Gigot said: “I’d advise against it.”

Such donations raise difficult questions: Do employees of news organizations give up certain civic rights? Or, in an age when polls show growing public perceptions of media bias, should the appearance of siding with a candidate or party be avoided at all costs?

“A good rule of thumb,” said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, “is, if this were known publicly, would it cause the audience to have doubt about the credibility of this person’s coverage?” That, he said, is often “a judgment call.”

Indeed.

FILED UNDER: Media
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. melvin toast says:

    Let’s quit the stupid charad. Journalists are biased. Judges are biased. Humans are biased. That’s why the founding fathers decided to create a free democracy. Personally I’d prefer that the SEC regulate journalists on disclosure like they regulate portfolio managers. This fantasy that someone can investigate in a totally unbiased manner is ridiculous. Particularly when people like Howell Raines are setting the tone.