Nonprofit newsrooms that are members of the Institute for Nonprofit News pledge to be transparent about the funding of their news operations and maintain editorial independence from all revenue sources to ensure news judgments are made in the interest of the communities they serve as journalists.
This commitment is reflected in two policies below. INN also asks members to post an equity and inclusion policy. A sample is found below.
Donor Transparency policies typically are included with donor solicitations and on donor pages; Editorial Independence policies may appear in more general “About Us” or similar sections. INN encourages all members to use these policies in whatever way is most applicable to your publications.
INN recommends publicly stating an equity and inclusion policy such as: “This news organization aims to reflect the diversity of the communities it serves in its staff and contributors, its editorial choices and priorities.”
Discuss them regularly with staff so they are part of the news and business culture throughout your publication, publish and reference them in public discussions of your work and share them with all supporters.
DISCLAIMER: The Institute for Nonprofit News (“INN”) is not a legal organization, and does not provide legal advice. The use of these materials is not a substitute for legal advice, and an attorney should be consulted with your use of the below materials. No Attorney-Client relationship is created by use of these materials.
Editorial Independence Policy
We subscribe to standards of editorial independence adopted by the Institute for Nonprofit News:
Our organization retains full authority over editorial content to protect the best journalistic and business interests of our organization. We maintain a firewall between news coverage decisions and sources of all revenue. Acceptance of financial support does not constitute implied or actual endorsement of donors or their products, services or opinions.
We accept gifts, grants and sponsorships from individuals and organizations for the general support of our activities, but our news judgments are made independently and not on the basis of donor support.
Our organization may consider donations to support the coverage of particular topics, but our organization maintains editorial control of the coverage. We will cede no right of review or influence of editorial content, nor of unauthorized distribution of editorial content.
Our organization will make public all donors who give a total of $5,000 or more per year. We will accept anonymous donations for general support only if it is clear that sufficient safeguards have been put into place that the expenditure of that donation is made independently by our organization and in compliance with INN's Membership Standards.
Donor & Financial Transparency
We are committed to transparency in every aspect of funding our organization.
Accepting financial support does not mean we endorse donors or their products, services or opinions.
We accept gifts, grants and sponsorships from individuals, organizations and foundations to help with our general operations, coverage of specific topics and special projects. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that operates as a public trust, we do not pay certain taxes. We may receive funds from standard government programs offered to nonprofits or similar businesses.
Our news judgments are made independently – not based on or influenced by donors or any revenue source. We do not give supporters the rights to assign, review or edit content.
We make public all revenue sources and donors who give $5,000 or more per year. As a news nonprofit, we avoid accepting charitable donations from anonymous sources, government entities, political parties, elected officials or candidates seeking public office. We will not accept donations from sources who, deemed by our board of directors, present a conflict of interest with our work or compromise our independence.
Disclosure examples from members
Disclosure: The Institute for Nonprofit News received a Paycheck Protection Program loan through the U.S. Small Business Administration during the coronavirus crisis.
Reveal on federal funds:
This disclaimer is at the end of their recent PPP story and will be included in future stories:
Disclosure: Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting sought a Paycheck Protection Program loan, which has been approved and disbursed.
This water explainer has a sponsor (because all of their explainers are monetized for one quarter at a time) AND the reporting has a philanthropic grant funder:
This explainer was supported by a grant from The Water Desk, an independent journalism initiative based at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Center for Environmental Journalism.
Their higher ed coverage is supported by the College Futures Foundation and that line is at the bottom of every story.
All of their philanthropic and major gift donors are also listed on its Supporters page.
Every article on The Conversation comes with a disclosure about the author (either that they have reported nothing or their sources of funding). On the desktop, it's in the right-hand navigation.
Sample: Anne Cafer receives funding from Carnegie Foundation, Walmart Giving Foundation. Meagen Rosenthal receives funding from Walmart Giving Foundation, Eshleman Institute for Innovation: Discovery Grants Program, Mississippi Department of Health, UNC TraCS Institute (pilot grant).
Story about a funder with disclosure at the end of the text:
Sample: Nicholas Tampio does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
365 Media Foundation
Madison Community Foundation has been a funder of theirs, so any story they write about any of the foundations' funds or activities, they add a line at the end, like this:
Sample: MCF is also a funder of Madison365.
Wisconsin Watch's Policy on Financial Support requires them to be transparent about their funding. In addition to naming all donors on their Funding page, they include disclosures in stories or taglines when they determine that the public should be informed of their acceptance of support from a specific source, or when the public should be informed of conditions attached to the funding. They do this to protect the integrity of our journalism.
A few examples:
Within a story: Nevertheless, the myth of widespread voter fraud persists, especially among Republicans, according to the June PRRI/The Atlantic survey funded by the Joyce Foundation, which also supports the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism’s coverage of democracy issues.
Tagline: This story was produced as part of an investigative reporting class in the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication under the direction of Dee J. Hall, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism’s managing editor. The Center's collaborations with journalism students are funded in part by the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment at UW-Madison.
Tagline involving a freelance journalist who also is a donor: Reporter Riley Vetterkind contributed to this report. Sheila Cohen, one of the authors, is also a donor to the nonprofit Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism (www.WisconsinWatch.org)
Series landing page: The project was made possible by support from INN, with additional support from the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems.
Other types of disclosures:
Salt Lake Tribune
Editor’s note • Clint Betts serves on The Salt Lake Tribune’s nonprofit board of directors.
The Conversation's additional, non-fund related disclosure samples
Sample: Gabriel Filippelli receives funding from the U.S. National Science Foundation and the American Chemical Society-Petroleum Research Fund Joseph D. Ortiz receives funding from NASA, the HW Hoover Foundation and the National Geographic Society. He is a participant in the Cleveland Water Alliance, which includes Kent State University. His spouse owns an environmental consulting firm, which is not involved in this project or his research.
Nothing to disclose:
Sample: Nikolay Anguelov does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
NOWCastSA on donation of in-kind office space
Here's how NOWCastSA discloses its relationship with the San Antonio Public Library, which has for 10 years provided NOWCastSA with office space:
Disclosure: The San Antonio Public Library is an in-kind financial supporter of NOWCastSA. A list of funders and donors can be viewed here.
Equity and Inclusion
This news organization aims to reflect the diversity of the communities it serves in its staff and contributors, its editorial choices and priorities.
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Advertising Acceptability Policy
MEMBER reserves the right to accept or decline any advertisement or sponsorship it is offered.
MEMBER will decline to accept advertising that it knows or believes to be misleading, inaccurate, fraudulent or illegal, or that fails to comply, in MEMBER’s sole discretion, with its standards of decency, taste or dignity.
MEMBER, like all quality publishers of original journalism, maintains a clear separation between news and advertising content. Advertising that attempts to blur this distinction in a manner that, in MEMBER’s sole judgment, confuses readers will be rejected.
Note: Conflict of Interest policies such as this are usually internal documents for staff and board members, but in the interest of transparency, INN recommends news organizations consider posting their conflict policies for public review as it provides readers with further insights into the ethics and news practices of your organization.
Conflict of Interest Policy
The following Financial Conflict of Interest Policy (“Conflict of Interest Policy”) is an effort (i) to ensure that the deliberations and decisions of the MEMBER ORGANIZATION FULL NAME (“MEMBER”) are made solely in the interest of promoting the quality of journalism in the state of MEMBER STATE (if applicable), and (ii) to protect the interests of MEMBER when it considers any transaction, contract, or arrangement that might benefit or be perceived to benefit the private interest of a person affiliated with MEMBER (each, a “MEMBER Representative”). As used in this Conflict of Interest Policy, a MEMBER Representative includes any director, advisory board member, financial advisor, legal counsel or employee.
- Duty to MEMBER. Each MEMBER Representative owes a duty to MEMBER to advance MEMBER’s legitimate interests when the opportunity to do so arises. Each MEMBER Representative must give undivided allegiance when making decisions affecting the organization. Similarly, MEMBER Representatives must be faithful to MEMBER’s nonprofit mission and are not permitted to act in a way that is inconsistent with the central goals of the organization and its nonprofit status.
- Gifts. No MEMBER Representative shall personally accept gifts or favors that could compromise his or her loyalty to MEMBER. Any gifts or benefits personally accepted from a party having a material interest in the outcome of MEMBER or its employees by a MEMBER Representative individually should be merely incidental to his or her role as an MEMBER Representative and should not be of substantial value. Any gift with a value of $250 or more, or any gifts with a cumulative value in excess of $250 received by an MEMBER Representative in any twelve-month period from a single source, shall be considered substantial. Cash payments may not be accepted, and no gifts should be accepted if there are strings attached. For example, no MEMBER Representative may accept gifts if he or she knows that such gifts are being given to solicit his or her support of or opposition to the outcome or content of any MEMBER publication.
- Conflicts of Interest. The following are examples of conflicts of interest which must be promptly disclosed to the MEMBER Board of Directors pursuant to Section 4 below by any MEMBER Representative with knowledge of such conflict of interest:
- (a) any real or apparent conflict of interest between a donor or the subject of an MEMBER publication or report and an MEMBER Representative;
- (b) an MEMBER Representative’s ownership of an equity interest in a person or entity that is or will be the subject of an MEMBER publication or report; and
- (c) failure to disclose to MEMBER all relationships between the subject of any MEMBER publication or report and any MEMBER Representative or close relatives of the MEMBER Representative.
- Conflict Procedure:
(a) If an MEMBER Representative or party related to an MEMBER Representative has an interest in any contract, action or transaction to be entered into with MEMBER, a conflict of interest or potential conflict of interest exists. Any MEMBER Representative having knowledge that such a conflict of interest exists or may exist (an “Interested MEMBER Representative”) will so advise the Board of Directors promptly. An Interested MEMBER Representative will include in the notice the material facts as to the relationship or interest of the Interested MEMBER Representative in the entity proposing to enter into a contract, action or transaction with MEMBER.
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(c) At any time that a conflict of interest or potential conflict of interest is identified, the President of the Board or a Chair of the applicable Committee will ensure that such conflict of interest is placed on the agenda for the next meeting of the Board of Directors or the Committee, as applicable. The notice of such meeting of the Board of Directors or the Committee, as applicable, will include, to the extent available when the notice is sent, a description of the conflict of interest matter to be discussed. By notice before the meeting or at the meeting, the directors on the board or the Committee, as applicable, will be advised that a vote will be taken at the meeting and that, in order to authorize the relevant contract, action or transaction, an affirmative vote of a majority of disinterested directors present at the meeting at which a quorum is present will be required and will be sufficient, even though the disinterested directors constitute less than a quorum of the Board of Directors or the Committee.
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(e) The Board of Directors or the Committee, as applicable, will invite all parties to the conflict of interest to attend the meeting, to make presentations and to be prepared to answer questions, if necessary. The Board or Directors or the Committee, as applicable, will also invite outside experts if necessary.
(f) At the meeting, providing a quorum is present, the conflict will be discussed to ensure that the directors present are aware of the issues and the factors involved. The interested directors may be counted for purposes of a quorum, even though they may not take part in any vote on the issues.
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(i) The Board of Directors or the Committee, as applicable, will maintain a written account of all that transpires at the meeting and incorporate such account into the minutes of the meeting and disseminate it to the full Board of Directors. Such minutes will be presented for approval at the next meeting of the Board of Directors and maintained in the corporate record book.
(j) To the extent that the conflict of interest is continuing and the contract, action or transaction goes beyond one (1) year, the foregoing notice and discussion and vote will be repeated on an annual basis.
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