Insights, tools and research to advance journalism

How news organizations disclose relationships with funders

The study also looked at whether the work of news organizations intersected with their partners or funders beyond the collaboration.

What happens, for instance, when a partner or a funder becomes the subject of a news story? Do the media organizations who have done stories on partners and funders note their relationship? The answer, the survey found, is yes and no.

Nearly 40 percent of the nonprofit media outlets said their funders have been the subsequent subjects in reporting. When they were, two-thirds of these nonprofit media said they mentioned the relationship in those stories. Two in 10 said the relationship was mentioned some of the time but not every time.

One nonprofit digital media company said that disclosure depends on whether it is considered germane: “If that information were relevant, we would mention it.”

Another digital nonprofit media outlet said: “Our funders have been sources on some stories, but never the subject. We have not identified them as funders in those stories.”

Have funders been subject of a later news story? Nonprofit media Commercial media
Yes, a funder has later been subject of a news story 37% 53%
No, we haven’t faced this situation

39% 34%
Don’t know/No Answer 23% 13%

Data Source: Surveys conducted 2015. Questions: Nonprofit media & commercial media — “Has a partner or funder you have worked with ever subsequently been a subject of one of your own news stories?”

American Press Institute

What happens if a funder later is a subject of a story Nonprofit media Commercial media
Have cited past collaboration in stories 68% 23%
Cited them in some news stories but not others 21% 23%
Did not cite collaboration 9% 33%
Other/Not relevant 0% 5%
Don’t know/no answer 3% 10%

Data Source: Surveys conducted 2015. Question: Did you mention your previous collaboration in that story, did you not cite it, or do you not know? Asked of those who said been in those situations.

American Press Institute

More than half of commercial news organizations said partners or funders for one project were subsequently the subject of one of their news stories. These commercial media were somewhat less likely to mention the relationship.

A third of these commercial media said they did not cite the previous relationship, while nearly a quarter said they did mention their relationship in the reporting. About a quarter said they cited the relationship in some stories but not others. It is difficult to know why the commercial media are less inclined to disclose these relationships in subsequent stories. The reason may relate to the fact that these financial relationships are less important economically to the organization. They may, as a result, also be less known inside the editorial department and may slip through the cracks when subsequent stories are done.

One commercial news outlet wrote, “an internship partnership with a university journalism department doesn’t bear on general university coverage.”

Need to Know newsletter

The smart way to start your day

Each morning we scour the web for fresh useful insights in our Need to Know newsletter. Sign up below.

Featured topics

Go deeper on…

Dive deep on everything we produce about these key topics.

Strategy Studies

The best practices for innovation within news organizations

This Strategy Study presents examples and insights about journalism innovation, offering actionable advice and methods to move your journalism and business forward.