Organizers defend decision to take anti-gun group’s money.
A story I wrote Tuesday revealed that the anti-gun group Everytown for Gun Safety, a proxy group of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, was sponsoring “gun violence” training for journalists.
The two-day workshop will be hosted by the Phoenix-based Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma, which is affiliated with the Columbia Journalism School.
In the story, I questioned the propriety of an anti-gun group sponsoring firearms and “gun violence” training for reporters, because of the conflict of interest it creates.
Dart is offering $350 stipends to the attendees, to offset travel and lodging
costs, which will be paid with Everytown’s funds. That means an anti-gun group will be paying reporters, or at least reimbursing their employers.
After my story was published, I was contact by Bruce Shapiro, executive director of the Dart Center.
Shapiro, according to his bio, is an “award-winning reporter on human rights, criminal justice and politics.”
In a series of emails, he told me Everytown had given Dart $48,000 for the workshop.
He could not provide the names or the bios of the presenters, saying that the list had not yet been finalized.
Even though they took Everytown’s money, Shapiro stressed that neither the anti-gun group nor the former mayor would be involved in the curriculum.
“The Arizona workshop is funded by Everytown, but the Dart Center alone will determine the content. If Michael Bloomberg, or any funder, tried to determine the content of our programs we’d give the money back,” Shapiro said in an email. “At this workshop as in everything we do, we’ll combine briefings by diverse, independent scholars on key issues (and I’d welcome any suggestions there) with journalist-to-journalist conversation about the craft of reporting on this challenging debate. And that’s it.”
Shapiro skirted around a few important questions, like why he would allow an anti-gun group to fund a supposedly neutral and independent discussion on guns.
“Lee, it’s a reasonable question. At the Dart Center and Columbia Journalism School we’re accustomed to working with program funders who might be seen as having political motivations on various issues – from the Open Society Institute to Citibank,” he wrote. “In each and every case we craft gift or grant agreements which guarantee the independence of programming, research and teaching, and which are vetted thoroughly by Columbia’s grants office. That was the case with the funding for this workshop.”
I don’t buy it.
Regardless of how many agreements, documents or offices are used to launder the donation, it’s still wrong. In journalism, and Shapiro knows this, the mere appearance of a conflict of interest means there’s a conflict of interest.
If Dart was looking to provide unbiased training on any contentious issue, asking one side for cash is ethically suspect.
I asked Shapiro if he now considered taking Everytown’s money to be a mistake. He didn’t respond to the question, other than with a caveat of his own.
Said Shapiro: “Now I have a request for YOU: If you’re blogging again on this I hope you’ll represent my comments fairly. From my point of view, the impulse to ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ is a problem on all sides of the gun debate – one that I hope this Dart Center regional workshop will address.”
Good luck with that.
I think the training is already tainted, especially since one of the country’s largest and most active anti-gun groups will be paying reporters to be there.
The workshop needs to be cancelled.
Everytown’s check should be returned.
If not, it will only confirm what millions of gun owners have long suspected, that we’ve taken sides — that the traditional media has been bought and paid for by an nanny-like former mayor and his billions of anti-gun dollars.