Monday, November 28, 2016

Fake news site wrestles with a potential Trump conflict of interest - The Washington Post

Another news site wrestles with a potential Trump conflict of interest - The Washington Post:

Another news site wrestles with a potential Trump conflict of interest

Former network TV anchor Campbell Brown has always said she wanted her education-news site, The74, to be perceived as a nonpartisan source for improving the nation’s primary and secondary school education.
But Donald Trump may have just dumped a major conflict of interest right into Brown’s, and The74’s, lap.
By naming billionaire philanthropist Betsy DeVos as his pick for secretary of education on last week, Trump put Brown in the awkward position of covering one of her closest allies.
A foundation headed by DeVos was among the wealthy school-reform advocates that funded Brown’s website when it launched last year. DeVos and Brown — formerly an NBC News anchor and the host of a prime-time show on CNN — are also on the board of the American Federation for Children (AFC), an organization that promotes charter school and government-funded vouchers to subsidize private education. The AFC and The74 co-sponsored a forum involving Republican presidential candidates last year.
All of which means The74 would be covering the policy pronouncements and initiatives of one of the people to which it owes its existence.
News organizations sometimes wrestle with subjects and people that are close to their own interests. The Washington Post, for example, is owned by Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos, whose company and activities are occasionally the subject of Post stories and editorials. In such cases, the connection between the paper and its owner is disclosed within the story.
But in DeVos’s case, The74’s interests are more direct, overlapping and constant. As a site seeking to lead “an honest, fact-based conversation” free of “misinformation and political spin” about America’s 74 million children under 18, its coverage of DeVos and her advocacy of school vouchers and charter schools will be inherent in almost everything it publishes.
DeVos’s appointment appears to place the site, which is named for the 74 million school-age children in America, in much the same position as Breitbart News, the conservative-news digital operation. Breitbart’s executive chairman, Stephen K. Bannon, has been named Trump’s chief White House strategist, raising questions about Breitbart’s role in a Trump administration.
Brown referred questions about her operation to a spokesman, Dan Bank, who said the site discloses its funding relationships in a note published with stories in which the relationships are relevant.
In stories about DeVos, the note reads: “The Dick & Betsy DeVos Family Foundation provides funding to The 74 and the site’s editor in chief, Campbell Brown, sits on the American Federation for Children’s board of directors, which is chaired by Betsy DeVos. The American Federation for Children also sponsored The 74’s 2015 New Hampshire education summit.”
That’s not enough, say those who oppose DeVos and the “reform” agenda.
“Given the fact that Betsy DeVos is a funder of The 74, it is hard to see how the publication can cover her appointment fairly,” says education historian Diane Ravitch, who has clashed with Brown and DeVos on policy matters before. In view of the close “personal and financial ties” between DeVos and Brown, Ravitch said, the site “should not cover the U.S. Department of Education for the next four years.”
Brown has previously recused herself from making editorial decisions for her site about the AFC and Success Academy, a charter-school network, because she sits on the board of both Another news site wrestles with a potential Trump conflict of interest - The Washington Post:

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