The study also looked at whether the work of news organizations intersected with their partners or funders beyond the collaboration.

What happens, for instance, when a partner or a funder becomes the subject of a news story? Do the media organizations who have done stories on partners and funders note their relationship? The answer, the survey found, is yes and no.

Nearly 40 percent of the nonprofit media outlets said their funders have been the subsequent subjects in reporting. When they were, two-thirds of these nonprofit media said they mentioned the relationship in those stories. Two in 10 said the relationship was mentioned some of the time but not every time.

One nonprofit digital media company said that disclosure depends on whether it is considered germane: “If that information were relevant, we would mention it.”

Another digital nonprofit media outlet said: “Our funders have been sources on some stories, but never the subject. We have not identified them as funders in those stories.”

[chart slug=”nonprofitethics-12a”] [chart slug=”nonprofitethics-12b”]

More than half of commercial news organizations said partners or funders for one project were subsequently the subject of one of their news stories. These commercial media were somewhat less likely to mention the relationship.

A third of these commercial media said they did not cite the previous relationship, while nearly a quarter said they did mention their relationship in the reporting. About a quarter said they cited the relationship in some stories but not others. It is difficult to know why the commercial media are less inclined to disclose these relationships in subsequent stories. The reason may relate to the fact that these financial relationships are less important economically to the organization. They may, as a result, also be less known inside the editorial department and may slip through the cracks when subsequent stories are done.

One commercial news outlet wrote, “an internship partnership with a university journalism department doesn’t bear on general university coverage.”

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