Philanthropy and The Firewall
Last week we were thrilled to share the news of a gift of $1 million from Monsanto Company in support of our future home in the Grand Center Arts & Entertainment District in midtown St. Louis.
The Monsanto Community Education Center will be located on the first floor of the new UMSL at Grand Center building, 3651 Olive Street in St. Louis. The building will also serve as the new home for the studios and offices of St. Louis Public Radio | 90.7 KWMU.
With this exciting gift from Monsanto Company, the $12 million campaign for a new home for the station is now just $2.6 million from completion.
As exciting and important as this announcement is for us at the station, it also resulted in some questions from a few listeners worried that a gift of this size from a company that we frequently report on might adversely influence our editorial decision-making.
We have always maintained a strict policy that separates our funders (individuals, corporations, and foundations) from the editorial content that you hear on the station. We model this firewall from similar policies that NPR has in place to protect its editorial integrity.
Like NPR, the journalists at St. Louis Public Radio – including senior news and programming managers – have full and final authority over all journalistic decisions. We work with all other departments at the station toward the goal of supporting and protecting our journalism. This means we communicate with our sponsorship and development departments to identify areas where we hope to expand our reporting. It also means we may take part in promotional activities or events such as coordinated fund drives, listener support spots, and public radio audience-building initiatives.
St. Louis Public Radio greatly appreciates the financial support it receives from individuals, from foundations and from corporations. Their support is essential. At the same time, it is the staff of St. Louis Public Radio who make their own decisions about what stories to cover and how to report them. Neither the people and the organizations who support NPR financially, the sources we come in contact with, our competitors, nor any others outside our newsroom dictate our thinking.
But we observe a clear boundary line: St. Louis Public Radio journalists interact with funders only to further our editorial goals, not to serve the agendas of those who support us.
In the specific case of Monsanto, this is certainly the largest gift we have received from this St. Louis-based company, however they have been a supporter of St. Louis Public Radio for several years and, like our other funders, understand and honor the firewall that exists between our funders and our editorial content.
If you are interested in more information on who provides funding to St. Louis Public Radio, I encourage you to review our annual report.