Arts and Entertainment
AlterNet's 'bounty' money
Maybe I should be celebrating. For the past six years the Bay Guardian has attacked AlterNet and my work. Fortunately, AlterNet.org keeps growing, as millions visit our site. Just about everyone, it seems, has confidence in our work, except for Brugmann and Co.
While the Bay Guardian reporters do important journalism, especially excellent local reporting, the paper clearly has a blind spot about AlterNet. In a recent "editorial," besides rehashing old complaints, a new question of "bounties for stories" is raised ["Don Hazen's Sleaze," 3/6/02]. This wording sounds unscrupulous. But the practice is not.
An individual funder of AlterNet wanted to make sure AlterNet syndication put energy into marketing noteworthy articles about the drug war. So he offered a bonus incentive, to help pay for the one-to-one marketing costs, i.e., a placement or targeted marketing fee. He's a business guy and wants results.
This money isn't used for the writing of articles, and doesn't influence content. The writers have already been paid for writing the story and again when it is syndicated. Nevertheless, the incentive bonuses will still be split with the authors. (By the way, the Bay Guardian doesn't permit its writers to earn extra money via syndication on AlterNet.)
Just to be clear, this is a pilot program and is barely off the ground. We have received a grand total of $1,700 in "incentive money," of which $775 is for stories written or owned by AlterNet. The rest ($925) is split 50/50 with the writers. In other words, $462.50 is to be divided up among Salon, Jim Hightower, Rich Lowery, Marty Lee, Carla Spartos, Dean Kuipers, Marc Schanz, Nicolas Eyle, Jim Washburn, Phillip Smith, and Sandeep Kaushik. Our accounting department was waiting for more money before redistributing this woeful sum. But to make sure there is no confusion, we'll send it out this month. We hope these writers enjoy a good lunch, and questions provoked by the "editorial" are answered. Please visit our Web site if you wish to see a list of IMI and AlterNet funders and board members.
Don Hazen Executive director, Independent Media Institute Executive editor, AlterNet.org San Francisco
Tim Redmond responds: Don Hazen says his "bounty" practice is just fine, but he never answers the key question: Why hasn't he told the writers who produce these stories, or the editors who run them, that their work is being funded by an anonymous donor who has his own political agenda?
As far as I can tell, this letter marks the first acknowledgment that the "bounty" practice exists. Hazen still won't identify the donor. Equally important, the editors of the papers who ran stories underwritten by an anonymous donor had no opportunity to tell their readers who was funding the work meaning they were stuck with an ethical problem they didn't create and almost certainly didn't want.
That's the essential problem with Hazen's organization: In its quest for foundation money, it's allowing big-money donors to set the journalistic and political agenda. And then he's keeping the source, amount, and conditions of those grants secret.
How many more hidden "bounty" programs does he have? How many of the stories on his wire are underwritten by unidentified anonymous donors? How can his board of directors not to mention his writers and clients continue to allow this to happen?
By the way, those exact ethical problems of secret foundation funding are the reason the Bay Guardian no longer does any business with AlterNet, and why we led the fight to convince the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies to cut all ties with Hazen's group.
Go green, Harry
We cannot allow Mark Leno, a candidate handpicked by Willie Brown, to represent us in the state assembly! Leno is a politician who cares more about downtown than the down-and-out. Harry Britt needs to step in as the Green Party candidate in the November election.
Progressives have ample reason to celebrate with the defeat of Kimiko Burton, but our work is not done. Go green, Harry!
Richie Setipane San Francisco
For the record
In last week's issue we misreported the day of biophysicist Neil Cherry's presentation on the effects of electromagnetic radiation from Sutro Tower and cell phone antennae. The event takes place Friday, March 22. See Alerts, page 14, for details.
In our March 6 issue, in "Takin' It to the Street," we misstated the relationship between Edison Capital and the John Stewart Co. John Stewart Co. was a subsidiary of Edison Capital before it was sold last year.