By Martin Scott (@martinscott2010). How does donor funding affect the independence, role perceptions, and ideology of the journalism it supports? We begin to answer this increasingly important but under-researched question with a year-long case study of the humanitarian news organisation IRIN as it transitioned from being funded by the United Nations to a private foundation, run by a Malaysian billionaire. Using content analysis, in-depth interviews, and ethnographic research, we document the changes that occurred in IRIN’s outputs, target audience, and public service values, and the complex interplay of influences that produced these changes. We find that, in this case, donor power operated entirely indirectly and always in concert with the dominant professional values within IRIN. In doing so, this case study highlights the importance of journalistic agency and contextual variables in the journalist–donor relationship, as well as the potential significance of contradictory dynamics. We also use this case to test whether Benson, Hessérus and Sedel’s model of media owner power can help to explain the workings of donor power.
The article ‘Donor Power and the News – The Influence of Foundation Funding on International Public Service Journalism’ (Scott, Bunce, Wright) is available open access in the ‘International Journal of Press Politics’: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1940161217693394