Although the American people often seem indifferent on constitutional free press issues, political leaders with censorious tendencies generally know to heed lessons from history. In colonial times, the people rose against the royal governor to support the printer John Peter Zenger. Later, in 1798, when the dominant Federalist political party was excessive in prosecutions for opposition views in the newspapers, the people voted the party out. The Federalists never rose again. In the Vietnam War period, people sided against the government in the showdown between the New York Times and the Nixon administration over publishing The Pentagon Papers. A core element in the American soul is an aversion to government censorship, as specified in the nation’s founding document: “Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech or of the press.”
3.5.3 Philanthropy 1. Objective: Explain how philanthropy works to support media
Significant gifts to support media organizations in recent years demonstrate untapped potential for philanthropy. A $200 million bequest to National Public Radio from Joan Kroc, from the McDonald’s fast-food fortune, established a new mark for media philanthropy. Herbert Sandler, who built Golden Financial West into a mortgage giant
and then sold it to the larger Wachovia banking empire, gave $10 million to create the ProPublica investigative reporting organization. Large charitable donations to media upstarts are becoming more common.
Loosely related to philanthropy is corporate underwriting. Major oil companies, for example, already underwrite costs of some public television and radio programs, ostensibly from a civic-minded instinct. In reality, it’s low-key advertising, although nobody wants to call it advertising because noncommercial station licenses issued by the federal government forbid advertising by philanthropic organizations. The term underwriting sidesteps federal rules against advertising and yet allows on-air acknowledgments that include product descriptions.
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