The Knight Foundation is Betraying its Mission
By sponsoring a journalism event featuring Tucker Carlson, the philanthropy is mistaking openness for strengthening democracy.
“A well-functioning democracy depends on healthy and trusted public and private institutions; an economy that provides broad-based opportunity and prosperity; tolerance and respect for one another and our differences; and a vibrant civic life.”
Those are the first words from the Knight Foundation on a post published November 9, 2020, introducing a collection of essays on “Democracy and Civic Life: What is the Long Game for Philanthropy?”
In their own introduction to the collection, Knight Foundation President/CEO Alberto Imbarguen and Vice President/Chief Program Officer Sam Gill wrote, “Rebuilding and reforming our democracy will require interventions that respond to both our near-term challenges and the underlying long-term phenomena. We need to get control of Covid-19. We need to provide economic relief to struggling Americans. We need to ensure free and fair elections and get back to a point where the results are regarded as legitimate by the vast majority of Americans. We need immediate action to reverse racial oppression. Addressing these challenges now is necessary.”
They added, “We also believe that philanthropy can help accelerate the reimagining of our democracy. Philanthropy can be a part of the solution, if it is open to continually rethink its own assumptions about how and where to be most effective. Experience tells us that we are not the ideal investors for every solution. We do our best work when we target challenges that exceed our means, and we make change most effectively when we leverage or accelerate trends in society.”
I’m flagging these statements because of Knight’s decision to sponsor an upcoming series of forums on the future of news starting with an event July 7th featuring Tucker Carlson of Fox News. The event is called “Signal and Noise: Polarization & Trust in News,” and it is the first pre-launch event convened by Semafor, a new global news for-profit led by Ben Smith, the former media columnist for The New York Times, and Justin Smith, former CEO of Bloomberg Media. Full disclosure: In my past life…