Don Mussell (dmsml) Sun 23 Jul 06 15:22
And no, DN! is among the most listened-to programs on KKCR.
FROM KAREN _ (davadam) Sun 23 Jul 06 20:51
Karen _ writes: Angie, All, What a great conversation! I wanted to ask this before I started reading the entire thing only to find the thread was in a new tapestry. We have talked of possible conflict when the funding source is a corporate with direct interest, but what about when the source is say a nonprofit with an interest in seeing the story told? say for example you want to do a documentary on suicide prevention, so as an independent producer you approach a nonprofit agency working in the field. they like the idea of reaching a broad audience so much that you have backing via their education budget...in cash to make it even worse. too risky a possible conflict here, if so what would be a suitable funding source when a grant does not exist? Keep up the grand flow of ideas, Karen
Angie (coiro) Mon 24 Jul 06 12:13
Karen, thanks for writing in. I've been pondering this since I read it last night. The short version is - I just don't know a proper answer to your question. I suspect it can only be analyzed case-by-case. One complicating factor is the rise of politically-motivated non-profits. NPs used to be associated with pretty much universal goals and priorities: feed the hungry. House the homeless. Fund college education for the lower classes. Now we've got moveon.org, the American Enterprise Institute, etc. No way can you say their dollars support an unbiased, non-activist stance. And as Steven Colbert said so beautifully, "reality has a liberal bias". Nowadays, even if you constructed the most straightforward piece you could muster on homelessness, it would - I promise! - be attacked as socialist, or classist, or at least liberally-biased. So how to set up a fair funding mechanism involving non-profs? I'd actually like to hear input from the others here on this. In fact, the Well has a <nonprofit.> conference, and a <film.> conference. I'll go ask over there if they want to pitch in some ideas.
Cupido, Ergo Denego (robertflink) Mon 24 Jul 06 19:06
>No way can you say their dollars support an unbiased, non-activist stance.< Given that all of us have to make life decisions that balance self-interest and group interest, isn't any donation, grant, contribution, etc. bound to have some bias and activism in it? I can see objections in principle to dollars given covertly or for deceptive purposes. I can also understand the tactic of accusing the other side of being biased and/or activist so that the audience might believe one is unbiased and neutral. BTW, I tend to think that a larger problem than bias may be lack of rigor in fact-finding, perspective and thinking.
Angie (coiro) Mon 24 Jul 06 23:12
I don't know that tending to the latter should mean a lack of attention to the former, Robert. Both are important. And yeah, we could all drive ourselves nuts looking for Simon-pure* funding, that doesn't carry even the slightest whiff of potential influence. As with everything else, it's seeking a balance. In today's climate, you might as well give up forestalling all accusations of bias. Goes back to being criticized for getting out of bed in the morning. At the close of business, then - can you tell yourself, and anyone giving you a fair listen, that you've presented even-handed information to the best of your ability? As individuals or as a company or group, that's the best you can do. *Simon-pure - how much longer till that makes no sense to anyone anymore? ;)
Berliner (captward) Tue 25 Jul 06 11:54
(Ummm, isn't Simon-pure a biblical reference? Not the kind of thing which vanishes overnight, I don't think. But now you've got me wondering...)
Teleological dyslexic (ceder) Tue 25 Jul 06 16:15
Last semester, in my Nonprofits course, my partner and I did a presentation on the book "High Performance Nonprofit Organizations: Managing Upstream for Greater Impact". One or two chapters dealt with decisions to be made when accepting funding and identifying venture capital focus culminating by contemplating strategies for changing foundation practices and strategies for changing nonprofit practice. Basically choose important objectives and hold the line. ;-)
Gail Williams (gail) Tue 25 Jul 06 16:24
(What do you mean by hold the line in that context, ceder? Keep on asking for your objectives?)
Teleological dyslexic (ceder) Tue 25 Jul 06 16:44
Generic for use in the most situations: to build strong organizations without compromising their commitment to social goals, for example, would require the nonprofit to make organizational capacity a means to social ends. To do this use management processes to support quality improvements--not just those that enhance appeal to funders--and to enhance responsiveness to clients. The same theme can be used for all nonprofit objectives. The book I meantioned uses for-profit organization management techniques to improve nonprofit impact.
Angie (coiro) Wed 26 Jul 06 12:45
Thanks, ceder. Today's our official last day in this interview. But I'll be hanging out for a while - I usually check out what's happening in this conference anyway. If any of you are unfamiliar with my on-air style, here's a chance to catch it. I'm sitting in for Willie Brown tomorrow on San Francisco's Air America affiliate, KQKE - the Quake. 7am to 9:30am, 960 on the AM dial, and live online. Ought to be interesting! - it's been well over a year now since I've done anything live but a very brief guest shot on the air. Wonder if I still got it.
Gail Williams (gail) Wed 26 Jul 06 14:01
Will you take call-ins?
Angie (coiro) Wed 26 Jul 06 14:07
Yep! It'll feel good to do that for a change.
Hal Royaltey (hal) Wed 26 Jul 06 14:15
Angie, Ed, huge thanks to both of you for an fascinating couple of weeks. I'm happy to hear that Angie will continue to check in here occasionally. Of course, the conversation can carry on for as long as we like, so if anyone has something to add, please do so. Thanks again!
Pamela Calvert (plainspeech) Fri 28 Jul 06 19:17
A day late and a dollar short, the perpetual condition of an independent doc producer... In response to Karen's question, the main problem with taking cash money from non-profits to do media that is of interest to them is that 99% of these projects are conceived as, or become, promotional videos for the work of that particular agency, a "sponsored project" to publicize their staff and programs. Non-profits need to account for their expenses to their own funders, and very few would be able to justify how a doc that isn't about them would be worth the significant investment of resources that could otherwise be spent on more direct program support. So in that sense it's not particularly ideological. However in one conspicuous case non-profits with deep pockets and fewer spending restrictions are routinely redlined by PBS (not sure about NPR but I'd bet it comes up there too), and that's labor unions. Any producer who wants their work to see the light of day on PBS will not be able to take a nickel from a union, it's pretty much automatically kicked back as a "conflict of interest." (Would that they were similarly stringent about Wall Street Week.) So the bottom line is that most independent doc work ends up being paid for by a handful of foundations. Gotta go write another grant now...
Paul B. Israel (pauli) Sat 29 Jul 06 15:38
Funny how unions are special interests and large corporations aren't.
Angie (coiro) Sat 29 Jul 06 17:07
Thanks for that, Pam! Paul, have you read back? We've been consistenty discussing corporations as special interests, and how to accept their funding without kowtowing to their editorial preferences.
Paul B. Israel (pauli) Sun 30 Jul 06 13:38
Angie I have been followin the discussion with interest. My comment was more a commentary on the degraded state of American political discourse in which unions can be called special interests whose money would taint public broadcasting while corporate funding somehow is just good corporate citizenship.
Angie (coiro) Mon 31 Jul 06 18:25
Oh, definitely. Just as there's a business section of the paper every day, as opposed to the occasional, crisis-centered union story, with carefully "balanced" input from labor and management. For you Mother Jones readers - our revamped website has been launched, at motherjones.com. The creative souls there are eager for feedback, so give it a test drive and pass along any constructive criticism. "Why doesn't Pat Buchanan have a regular column with you guys" doesn't count!
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