The ProPublica Precedent

By April 3, 2009Media Relations

Noel Sheppard of comments on today’s Washington Post/ProPublica joint reporting proejct we wrote about here.  In his post, “WaPo Collaborates on Front Page Piece With Far-left ProPublica,” he makes a point we should have noted, as well, that the story itself — “As Crisis Loomed, Geithner Pressed But Fell Short” — an examination of Geithner’s time at the New York Fed, seems solid.

We followed the reporting of ProPublica’s Jeff Gerth on Chinese espionage when he was at the New York Times and thought it important journalism.  But, as Sheppard writes: “Of greater concern is the precedent established here, and the possibility that this far-left leaning outlet will get more of its work published by major mainstream entities like the Post.”

The Post’s disclosure also warrants a comment:

This article was reported jointly with ProPublica, an independent, non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. ProPublica is supported entirely by philanthropy and provides the articles it produces, free of charge, both through its own Web site and to leading news organizations.

Supported entirely by philanthropy sounds quite nice, but in a story about financial regulation, readers might like to know that the philanthropy is that of Herb and Marion Sandler, billionaire former owners of a California savings and loan. Golden West naturally had extensive dealings with its regulator, the Office of Thrift Supervision, including on such relevant issues as risk-based capital. You would never know that from the Post’s non-transparent disclosure.

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