By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Funding crisis hits MediaChannel

The MediaChannel, a nonprofit watchdog organization founded seven years ago, is in danger of going under by the end of June.

The organization was begun in 2000 by two former Boston journalists, Danny Schechter and Rory O’Connor. Schechter recently released a new documentary, “In Debt We Trust.” O’Connor is a founder of NewsTrust, a social network that rates news stories and organizations.

Here’s an excerpt from MediaChannel’s fundraising appeal:

“It is sad to have to shut down an important service in the public interest because our not-for-profit site can’t attract sufficient resources to support a very small staff or to pay necessary bills including rent, server fees and utilities,” said Danny Schechter, co-founder of the international web platform that launched February 1, 2000. “The ultimate irony is that MediaChannel has never been better — its traffic is up and its impact strong, as is the quality of its timely and diverse offerings, which include original reports, blogs, videos, features and media news from across the world.”

MediaChannel may not get as much attention as Media Matters for America, which also analyzes the media from a left-of-center point of view, but with a more partisan political edge. But it does good work, and it would be a shame if it disappeared.

Also banging the tin cup: Christopher Lydon’s excellent public radio program, “Open Source,” which lost its funding from UMass Lowell last year. Clea Simon has the update in Wednesday’s Globe.

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  1. Tony

    From the Globe article: Since losing the UMass-Lowell funding, says Lydon, the show has been kept afloat with various other resources. “We’ve always had benefactors,” he says. Those resources include $150,000 received in January, the first installment of a $250,000 MacArthur Foundation Grant, according to McGrath.I’m kinda shocked that the show cannot sustain itself with that kind of funding. Small AM radio stations, with huge electric bills, sales staff, and local on-air talent, are able to keep themselves on the air for $150k-plus per year. I can’t believe that they can’t keep a what, two-hour show?, on the air for that kind of money. Although, maybe Lydon – or others – are paying themselves the same amount of money they were making at WBUR. Then, yeah, that would be difficult to do. “… the better part of a million dollars annually …” doesn’t seem like a very lean ship to me at all, considering what other actual radio stations are doing with a lot less. Of course, admittedly, I don’t know the financials around what they are doing, so I shouldn’t be the one to judge. I do, however, know what it takes to run an entire radio station and I would have KILLED to have $400k in funding!

  2. Dan Kennedy

    Tony: “Open Source” is on for four hours a week — Monday through Thursday, 7 to 8 p.m. No, I don’t think it’s a lean ship at all. Large staff, lot of resources devoted to the Web, and good jobs at good wages. It’s also a really good program, so what are you going to do? I’d be disappointed if it went off the air.

  3. Peter Porcupine

    Once again – the leftish shade of pale has demonstrated an aversion to putting their own, actual money where their mouth is – as opposed to grants, tax dollars and donor funding.There is a lesson here.

  4. Tony

    Thanks for the clarification.I do want to add that “good jobs at good wages” isn’t worth a damn if you are blowing through all your money and you are off the air after a couple of years. Not unlike our blogs, there is a love of the art, if you will, which has as much value as a job. Lydon is a very smart guy. I would think that he would think that it would be smarter to keep the show on the air for a long time than to have a ton of people on the payroll and put yourself in jeopardy, again!

  5. Anonymous

    Lydon and company can bang that tin cup but it’s certain that the days are numbered. I say good riddance. I listen online once in a while and it’s painful. He has to be the worst interviewerwith the most interesting topics.He ruins the show with his bloviating on an on and on and on. Rick from Dorchester

  6. danny schechter

    Thanks Dan for bringing our crisis to the attention of your readers. We are hardly the only ones in the independent media that is facing these challenges. Some organizations have had to close. Some indy media groups have found themselves priced out of the real estate market. In fact, our readers are responding gnerously with donations to at 575 8th Ave #2200 NY NY 10018. As for Mr. Porcupine ‘s comments–is his name real because he knows not of what he speaks. Our company has put hundreds of thousands of dollars in and my partner Rory O’Connor and I have been working for free. So please, if you want to insult us with a pose of superiority, at least know what your talking about less some of those porcupine thingies “blow back” into your ass,Danny SchechterNews Dissector

  7. Tony

    Hey Danny, I think Peter was talking about Lydon … not your org.

  8. Paul Levy

    Dan,I like to think of myself as reasonably informed, but I have never heard of this place. Is it a “channel” on tv somewhere? On radio? A blog? Or what?More importantly, I guess, I have never heard of it having an impact on coverage or public events. This may very well be my ignorance.I had heard that Chris Lydon was dong something somewhere, but I thought it was some web-based thing, and I never actually found it.In posting this entry, are you asking people to contribute, or are you just noting that they are looking for money? If the former, have you done so yourself? If you would tell us why you did, that would make it a more powerful appeal. (Of course, I also understand if you don’t like to talk about your own philanthropy.)

  9. Dan Kennedy

    Paul: Excellent questions. As a rule, I do not suggest to people that they ought to donate money to anything. In these two cases, I’ve simply noted that there are a couple of worthy media projects that are having financial problems, here are the links, and there you are.I’m also very wary about giving money. I may no longer be a full-time journalist, but I’m still a part-time one, and I don’t donate to organizations I write about. Full disclosure: I have made exceptions for WBUR and WGBH on the grounds that those are essentially user fees. Besides, I obviously have a conflict with WGBH that goes well beyond the fact that we make an annual donation. One thing I guarantee: You won’t find my name popping up on any politician’s donor list.Finally, why haven’t you heard of these projects? I guess I’m not surprised you haven’t heard of the MediaChannel. It’s done good work, but Schechter and O’Connor have not done much to promote it, and its mission is kind of diffuse. At the moment, I have to say that their other work, including their blogs, is more compelling than the MediaChannel. But it’s a good idea, and it would be a shame if they don’t get another chance to develop it.On the other hand, I’m not sure why you don’t know about Lydon’s show. It’s on WGBH Radio every Monday through Thursday, 7 to 8 p.m., and has been for nearly two years now. Hidden in plain sight, I guess.

  10. Paul Levy

    Thx on all points, Dan. Sorry to have missed Chris’ show. I only listen to radio at that hour if there happens to be a Sox game!

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