May 10, 2010

News about us: Transparency in donations

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Our donors
WCIJ fundraising policy
Our tax forms (new!)

We want you to know who’s supporting the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

That’s why the Center’s Board of Directors recently voted on a fund-raising policy that formalizes a practice we have been following — disclosing the names of all our donors.

We believe that nonprofit journalism organizations should do this. After all, advertisers, who help pay the bills at traditional newspapers and TV stations, are public.

We also will disclose any donations that are for specific topics, stories, or programs.

The policy is in line with recommendations in a report released last month by three journalism centers, including the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism.

“Ethics for the New Investigative Newsroom” (download PDF report; read our blog post) presents the recommendations that emerged from a roundtable of leaders in nonprofit journalism — which included two of our board members, our executive director and our pro bono counsel — at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in January.

The report is one of the first efforts to recommend “best practices” for nonprofit investigative newsrooms. The roundtable was in preparation for a UW-Madison Center for Journalism Ethics conference: “New Journalism — New Ethics?”

The Jan. 29 roundtable was a collaboration of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism & Mass Communication, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism and the College of Media at the University of Illinois. Additional support was provided by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation of Oklahoma City, which also contributes to WCIJ.

Stephen Ward, director of the Center for Journalism Ethics, led the roundtable, which included Andy Hall, executive director of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism; and Brant Houston, Knight Chair in Investigative & Enterprise Reporting at the University of Illinois. Other participants included Charles Lewis, founding executive editor of the Investigative Reporting Workshop; and Christa Westerberg, vice president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council. Houston and Lewis serve on the board of directors of the Wisconsin investigative center and Westerberg serves as its pro bono legal counsel.