Community engagement: Partners and Perception:
Stations forge partnerships to extend the impact of their programs to the community. In creating these partnerships, stations should avoid the following:
- The perception of vested or undue influence, just as they would with a funding relationship.
- Any organization that you would host as an underwriter, you should not have as an engagement partner.
- Partners should be carefully selected to avoid the appearance of bias or a partisan point of view.
Sample Policy statement on community engagement partnerships.
Public media stations may forge partnerships with community organizations to extend the impact of their media content. Such partnerships should be carefully selected to avoid the appearance of bias or partisan point of view.
Linking to funder and community partner websites:
Stations link to their partner’s web and social media sites to give consumers a way to learn more about the organizations that support public media. Regarding linking to a partner’s website, we recommend the following actions:
- View, in advance, a partner’s website and social media feeds for content. Be aware of anything controversial and make sure that your staff and station stakeholders are kept informed on any potential issues that might arise.
- Continue to monitor partner’s web and social media sites throughout the partnership.
- Use a disclaimer to discern that the station is not responsible for any content on a partner’s web or social media site.
The role of News Personnel in Fundraising:
For many public media organizations, news reporters and program hosts serve as the most visible and credible members of the organization. Stations need to adopt policies that guide how on-air and news personnel participate in fundraising activities. When working with news personnel and host in raising funds keep these points in mind.
- Avoid using news and program host in endorsing products or premiums during fund drives.
- It is perfectly acceptable to work with news personnel or on-air hosts in creating proposal for potential funders. Take care to not involve news personnel or program host too deeply in the funding solicitation process, particularly if a host or reporter might later cover the funder as part of a news story.
The impact of funding and editorial choices:
Do not let your editorial choices be determined by the availability of local or national funding on a specific topic. Managers should base decisions on whether to accept targeted financial support solely on the interests of the listeners. Questions to ask when considering targeted funding:
- Is the issue a legitimate topic for coverage, something we wanted to cover anyway?
- Is the funder’s interest altruistic, as opposed to seeking financial or political benefit?
- Would it appear to listeners that the funds come with strings attached?
We believe that station managers should actively consult with other professionals and with media consumers when formulating station policies. We recommend the following:
- Each station construct a “kitchen cabinet” which includes station staff, community members and colleagues from other institutions to provide consultation to station managers regarding policy, funding questions or station compliance of these standards.
As the relationship between stations and funders become more complicated, our obligation to the public is to be transparent in all of our decision-making processes. Specific policies regarding transparency should include the following elements:
- If the station receives a grant from a foundation to produce programming, it should consider publishing the amount of the grant and what its contractual obligations will be.
- If the station engages in a funder/editorial partner relationship, it should disclose the specific nature of that relationship both financially and editorially.
- All stations should publish their standards for accepting funding.
- All stations should publish the editorial guidelines that all of its programs follow.
- All stations should consider disclosing a glossary of terms which explains what certain phrases mean such as “brought to you in part by” or “with additional assistance from.”
Funding and Firewalls: Summary Recommendations:
Stations should commit to rigorous policies that flow from our shared principles and common purpose. Among these are:
- A commitment to accuracy, fairness and truth in all our content creation regardless of subject area or distribution platform.
- A commitment to “truth in labeling” in all our programming in that we will never label opinion as fact or fact as opinion.
- A commitment to avoiding even the perception of undue funder influence over any of our news product.
- A commitment to never letting funders distort our core editorial principles when creating content including news, performance, history and informational programming.
- A commitment to full transparency of all station policies, including the nature of our financial relationships with our funders.