- By Dan Gainor
- Wednesday, May 18, 2011 11:51 AM EDT
Second of Four Parts
It’s a scene journalists dream about – a group of coworkers toasting a Pulitzer Prize. For the team at investigative start-up ProPublica, it was the second time their fellow professionals recognized their work for journalism’s top honor.
For George Soros and ProPublica’s other liberal backers, it was again proof that a strategy of funding journalism was a powerful way to influence the American public.
It’s a strategy that Soros has been deploying extensively in media both in the United States and abroad. Since 2003, Soros has spent more than $48 million funding media properties, including the infrastructure of news – journalism schools, investigative journalism and even industry organizations.
And that number is an understatement. It is gleaned from tax forms, news stories and reporting. But Soros funds foundations that fund other foundations in turn, like the Tides Foundation, which then make their own donations. A complete accounting is almost impossible because a media component is part of so many Soros-funded operations.
This information is part of an upcoming report by the Media Research Centers Business & Media Institute which has been looking into George Soros and his influence on the media.
It turns out that Soros’ influence doesn’t just include connections to top mainstream news organizations such as NBC, ABC, The New York Times and Washington Post. It’s bought him connections to the underpinnings of the news business. The Columbia Journalism Review, which bills itself as “a watchdog and a friend of the press in all its forms,” lists several investigative reporting projects funded by one of Soros foundations.
The “News Frontier Database” includes seven different investigative reporting projects funded by Soros’ Open Society Institute. Along with ProPublica, there are the Center for Public Integrity, the Center for Investigative Reporting and New Orleans’ The Lens. The Columbia School of Journalism, which operates CJR, has received at least $600,000 from Soros, as well.
Imagine if conservative media punching bags David and Charles Koch had this many connections to journalists. Even if the Kochs could find journalists willing to support conservative media (doubtful), they would be skewered by the left.
For Soros, it’s news, but it nothing new. According to “Soros: The Life and Times of a Messianic Billionaire,” he has been fascinated by media from when he was a boy where early career interests included “history or journalism or some form of writing.” He served as “editor-in-chief, publisher, and news vendor of” his own paper, “The Lupa News” and wrote a wall newspaper in his native Hungary before leaving, wrote author Michael T. Kaufman, a 40-year New York Times veteran. The Communist Party “encouraged” such papers.
Now as one of the world’s richest men (No. 46 on Forbes’ list), he gets to indulge his dreams. Since those dreams seem to involve controlling media from the ground up, Soros naturally started with Columbia University’s School of Journalism. Columbia is headed by President Lee Bollinger, who also sits on the Pulitzer Prize board and the board of directors of The Washington Post.
Bollinger, like some of Soros’ other funding recipients, is pushing for journalism to find a new sugar daddy or at least an uncle – Uncle Sam. Bollinger wrote in his book “Uninhibited, Robust, and Wide-Open: A Free Press for a New Century” that government should fund media. A 2009 study by Columbia’s journalism program came to the same conclusion, calling for “a national fund for local news.” Conveniently, Len Downie, the lead author of that piece, is on both the Post’s board and the board of the Center for Investigative Reporting, also funded by Soros.
Soros funds more than just the most famous journalism school in the nation. There’s journalism industry associations like:
- The National Federation of Community Broadcasters;
- The National Association of Hispanic Journalists;
- And the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Readers unhappy with Soros’ media influence might be tempted to voice concerns to the Organization of News Ombudsmen – a professional group devoted to “monitoring accuracy, fairness and balance.” Perhaps a direct complaint to one such as NPR’s Alicia Shepard or PBS’s Michael Getler, both directors of the organization. Unfortunately, that group is also funded by Soros. At the bottom of the Organization of News Ombudsmen’s website front page is the line: “Supported by the Open Society Institute,” a Soros foundation. It is the only organization so listed.
The group’s membership page lists 57 members from around globe and features:
- Deirdre Edgar, readers’ representative of The Los Angeles Times;
- Brent Jones, standards editor, USA Today;
- Kelly McBride, ombudsman, ESPN;
- Patrick Pexton, ombudsman, The Washington Post.
The site doesn’t address whether the OSI money creates a conflict of interest. But then, who could readers complain to anyway?
There’s more. The Open Society Institute is one of several foundations funding the Investigative News Network (INN), a collaboration of 32 non-profit news organizations producing what they claim is “non-partisan investigative news.” The James L. Knight Foundation also backs the network and is possibly the most-well-known journalism foundation. Knight President and CEO Alberto Ibargüen is on the board of directors for ProPublica.
INN includes the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University, the liberal web start-up MinnPost, National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting, National Public Radio, and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism. The network had included the liberal Huffington Post investigative operation among its grants, but HuffPo investigations merged with the possibly even more left-wing Center for Public Integrity, on whose board Arianna Huffington sits.
Liberal academic programs, left-wing investigative journalism and even supposedly neutral news organizations paid for by a man who spends tens of millions of dollars openly attacking the right. George Soros is teaching journalists that their industry has a future as long as he opens his wallet.
Dan Gainor is the Boone Pickens Fellow and the Media Research Center’s Vice President for Business and Culture. His column appears each week on The Fox Forum. He can also be contacted on Facebook and Twitter as dangainor.