I don’t know about you, but I have always been told that a conflict of interest occurs when journalists pay for stories they cover. So, needless to say when I heard that ABC News was joining up with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to back a year-long project investigating global health problems…I got suspicious.
Does this make sense to you? The Gates Foundation is supplying a grant of $1.5 million, which ABC will supplement with $4.5 million of its own to travel the world reporting on various health crises and suggesting solutions. Take a look at how the Gates Foundation announced the partnership. Would you describe it as vague?
In exchange for the grant, ABC has committed to including extensive coverage of world health issues on all its programs, and specifically to an hour-long prime-time special this December to kick it off, and another hour in prime time next December to conclude the coverage.
In an interview David Westin, the president of ABC News, said that, ABC has also committed to “one anchoring” of both of the network’s flagship news programs, “Good Morning, America” and “World News.”
The Gates money will be specifically earmarked to pay for what Mr. Westin described as “overseas travel and production.” He emphasized that ABC would retain full editorial control and would decide where to go and which issues to cover. Now here you see what ABC News had to say about the merger.
Is it controversial or unethical when one group pays for the news coverage they are involved in? What if a story comes along that puts the Gates Foundation in a negative light, will ABC report the story?
Will this enable how ABC reports future and current controversial issues on the Gates Foundation? We might want to watch this to see how the story unfolds with the editorial control and track if this becomes a conflict of interest.
In looking at this Seattle weekly post you can get more information and a little sarcasim about this partnership.