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The sites with more ideological content tend to have fewer funders and revenue streams, are less transparent about their mission and funding and produce less content than sites with more ideologically balanced coverage, according to a Pew Research Center study. ProPublica, Texas Tribune and MinnPost all scored highly on both the balance of their content and transparency about where their funding comes from, notes Rick Edmonds. Pew also found that the sites with higher levels of productivity tended to be the least ideological in their content.
Non-Profit News: Assessing a New Landscape in Journalism
Monday, July 18—A new study of non-profit news websites by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism finds that large numbers of them are offering news reporting that is clearly ideological or partisan in nature. The sites with more ideological content tend to have fewer funders and revenue streams, are less transparent about their mission and funding and produce less content than sites with more ideologically balanced coverage.
Within this emerging landscape, the study focuses on the news coverage, funding, transparency and organizational structure of 46 websites that cover news at the national or state level. Researchers examined 1,203 stories from those websites, as well as dozens of institutions and individuals that financially support those sites. Thirty-nine of the sites were non-profit; seven recently-founded, for-profit news sites were included for comparison.
“The fact that a news site is a non-profit does not define what kind of news it produces,” says PEJ Director Tom Rosenstiel. “Some fit squarely into the traditions of independent news gathering, offering a wide range of perspectives about current events. Others fall more closely toward partisan news or even political activism.”
Among the findings:
· Researchers found that nearly half the sites studied offered news reports that were ideological in nature, often featuring a single point of view and stories that tilted in a consistently partisan manner.
· Two major “families” of sites were the most ideological of the non-profit groups. Those funded by the American Independent News Network generally leaned left. Sites with the name Watchdog.org associated with the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity generally leaned right.
· Overall, half the news stories studied offered just a single point of view on controversial issues. Just 2% contained more than two points of view.
· Reporting resources at the non-profit sites tend to be quite limited. On more than a third of the sites studied, just one or two people authored all of the stories.
· Often the parent organizations behind these sites offer very little information about their own funding. At 28 of the 46 sites studied, backers provided no such information.
This study was designed and produced by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. The Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan, nonprofit fact tank that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world. It does not take positions on policy issues. PEJ is funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts.