The Ford Foundation's new practice of paying for reporters at ad-driven, profit-motivated corporate media — in this case, the Los Angeles Times — poses all kinds of issues and angles yet to be examined. But one issue in particular comes to mind for Joe Mathews, the former Times politics reporter who is now an author and journalist for several foundation-backed organizations.
This raises a big question for Californians: who is going to cover the foundations?
The gift to the Times (where I was a reporter for eight years) is just one example of how foundations are gaining reach and influence over civic and political life in the state.
The largest good government group in California, California Forward, is a partnership of foundations. Much of the most important policy work in important areas such as education and health care comes out of foundations or foundation-funded entities.
Public radio stations, some of which are growing rapidly, depend on foundations for support. Most of the money that supports the state's leading investigative reporting entity, California Watch, comes from leading foundations such as Irvine, Hewlett, and the California Endowment -- all of which are big players in the development of public policy in the state...
Even as someone who knows the work of these foundations and some of their staff, I have very little sense of how these organizations work, how they set their agendas, who their decisionmakers are, how they exercise power, how they interact and make deals with powerful officials and institutions.
The public knows even less than I do. That's because California media don't cover foundations and their work routinely, aggresively and critically.
More at Mathews' post at Prop Zero, NBC's California politics blog.
Previously on LA Observed:
Ford Foundation to fund new LA Times reporters *