Chicago radio station WCFL

Many listeners of the historically powerful Chicago radio station WCFL had no idea that the call letters stood for the Chicago Federation of Labor. Yes, labor unions owned and operated the station. Also going back to the 1920s, many churches have

been in and out of station ownership.

By some measures, there are more sponsored media than financially independent media. Of 17,800 magazines in the United States, most are issued by organizations for select audiences. These include corporate magazines for employees, shareholders, customers, and other audiences.

A Century of Sponsorship Mary Baker Eddy, the influential founder of the Christian Science faith, was aghast at turn-of-the-century Boston newspapers. The Boston dailies, like papers in other major U.S. cities, were sensationalistic, overplaying crime and gore in hyperbolic battles to steal readers from each other. Entering the fray, Eddy introduced a newspaper with a different mission. Her Christian Science Monitor, founded in 1908, sought to deal with issues and problems on a higher plane and to help the world come up with solutions. The Monitor was a sponsored paper, produced by an institution as part of a larger purpose. Unlike many church-sponsored media, the Monitor has never been preachy, either as a newspaper or today in its new online format. As for all sponsored media, the church as the sponsor has underwritten expenses when subscriptions, newsstand sales, and advertising revenue fell short.

Sponsored News. Since its founding in 1908, the Christian Science Monitor has offered global news coverage from a solution-oriented perspective advocated by the Christian Science church. The goal of church founder Mary Baker Eddy was accurate and truthful reporting to help people address serious problems facing humankind. In 2009, short of funds to maintain the newspaper, the Monitor went to a slick weekly format and an online delivery.

Community Foundations Another alternative to newspapers being owned by corporate conglomerates is for charities and community foundations to own independent (or family-owned) newspapers. This option may increase the chances of financial viability by eliminating the need to pay federal taxes on earnings, and it may also increase objectivity and bias. Among analysts who suggest a charity model is Ben Shute of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. Shute notes that community foundations, common throughout the United States, raise donations to support worthy community causes. Why not support newspapers, even operate them, as essential forums for news and ideas in a democratic society?

Some skeptics point out that community foundations are usually supported by local business and political elites and have long records as community boosters. Would foundation-operated newspapers be detached and neutral on controversial and cutting-

edge issues, as newspapers have under private ownership? Depending on their funding sources and community alliances, this model could jeopardize risky investigative reporting.

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