Journalists for hire, ethics be damned: Anti-gun Joyce Foundation grant funds media "studies" pushing gun control

noun, plural -cies.
the act of pleading for, supporting, or recommending; active

The Code of Ethics for the Society of Professional Journalists states that "Journalists should be free of obligation to any interest other than the public's right to know," and specifies that:

Journalists should:

— Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
— Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
— Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity.

A series of articles written by Theodore Decker and published last week in The Columbus Dispatch ignores these principles, taking advocacy journalism to a level even the founders of the SPJ probably couldn't imagine when they adopted their first code of ethics in 1926.

The three-part series is entitled "Overrun by guns".

In his first article, Decker cites "a Dispatch analysis of state records" which "found that in 2009 alone, law-enforcement officers in Ohio investigated 12,550 incidents in which a gun was present," or "about 34 per day." The analysis also reportedly found that "guns were used in 62 percent of all Ohio homicides in 2009...; 41 percent of robberies; and 24 percent of aggravated assaults, which include shootings..."

"Add to that toll the enormous medical costs," Decker continues. "The cost of tending to the injured in Ohio averages about $37 million in inpatient hospital charges a year..."

Of Ohio's 502 slayings in 2009, 62 percent were gun homicides, according to the FBI. ...

Guns were used in 75 percent of Columbus' homicides during the past five years, when 360 lives were snuffed out with the pull of a trigger.

The potential for use of a firearm for self-defense is not mentioned even once in any of Decker's five articles, let alone quantified.

Gun rights activists have long-complained of the presence of an anti-gun bias in the media. They've always assumed that this was simply the result of the reporters' personal bias infecting their reporting (despite the fact that the SPJ Code states that journalists should "Support the open exchange of views, even views they find repugnant.")

But a small note at the bottom of Decker's articles suggest there is more at work than a simple lack of professionalism from yet another anti-gun reporter.

A grant from the John Jay College Center on Media, Crime and Justice contributed to the reporting of this project.

A grant, of course, means that someone basically commissioned Theodore Decker to write this series of articles. Now why would they do that?

Advocacy Journalism

A search of the John Jay College website quickly revealed the goals they intended to have achieved with the grants they awarded, as well as the source of their grant funding.

From the 2010 grant opportunity announcement:

This fall, the Center on Media, Crime at Justice (CMCJ) at John Jay College in New York will be awarding grants of up to $5,000 for new and original work on any facet of gun violence, including investigative, analytical, online and broadcast reporting, that promises to have a major public policy impact. The grants are competitive-we'll only be able to select up to seven reporting projects--they are limited to working journalists in ALL states in midwest and northeast region with priority given to journalists in Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

In short, the goal of Decker's series of articles in The Dispatch was to "have a major public policy impact" on gun violence in Ohio.

The ultimate source of the funding for this grant may provide some idea on just what type of "major public policy impact" Decker was tasked with promoting:

Some background: this special project is made possible by grants from the Joyce Foundation and the David Bohnett Foundation.

...What would you write about? I don't need to tell you that the range of potential topics is vast. Just last month, Attorney-General Eric Holder declared that "gun violence is not just a big city problem; it is a concern for us all." We're open to all imaginative and powerful ways of exploring the issue, with an emphasis on investigations in the midwest region.

That's right, in addition to his normal income from The Dispatch, Theodore Decker was paid up to $5000 by none other than the anti-gun rights Joyce Foundation - the same organization that has funded the Ohio Coalition Against Gun Violence to the tune of $688,200 over the past ten years[1], with millions more going to the Million Mom March Foundation, the Wisconsin Anti-Violence Effort Educational Fund, the Handgun Epidemic Lowering Plan Network, the Council Against Handgun Violence, Legal Community Against Violence, Handgun Free America; the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, the Coalition Against Gun Violence, and the Violence Policy Center.[2] It is also the same organization which once counted as a board member none other than the avowed anti-concealed carry President Barack Obama (Obama recently named a member of the Joyce Foundation-funded International Association of Chiefs of Police to head the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives[3]), and the same organization that counts among its six main Giving Programs the goal of seeking "to drive small gun dealerships out of business by placing the firearms industry completely under consumer product health and safety oversight."[4]

According to analysis at, the Joyce Foundation "misrepresents the findings of research on gun-related deaths by failing to distinguish between gun-related deaths among inner-city gang members, where the death rates from shootings are astronomical, and gun-related deaths among members of the general population, which are relatively rare. As a result, it depicts gun violence as a national epidemic, thereby creating a perceived justification for what it hopes will be the erosion of Second Amendment rights."[5]

Not unexpectedly then, Decker's articles also address the health-care angle:

The average hospital cost per firearm injury in Ohio from 2005 to 2007 was $34,896, for a total average of $37.2 million a year, according to the "Injury in Ohio" report.

And although taxpayers might never find themselves on the business end of a gun, researchers have determined that they are picking up half of the treatment costs for gunshot injuries through government programs.

When you can't get the anti-gun news coverage you want for free, buy it

Apparently not satisfied with the anti-gun rights bias already present in the news media, or perhaps more concerned that the old media's waning resources will prevent the anti-gun rights bias from being promoted as it has in the past, the Joyce Foundation has set out to buy the "news" it seeks.

From a John Jay College of Criminal Justice press release, dated May 4, 2010:

May 4, 2010, New York, NY – The Center on Media, Crime and Justice (CMCJ) at John Jay College has garnered $780,956 in research grants during the first half of 2010. These grants will allow the Center to expand its mission of promoting and developing high-quality criminal justice journalism in the United States.

Most recently, the Center received a one-year $79,950 grant from the Joyce Foundation for an innovative project aimed at developing in-depth and data-supported journalism on issues related to gun violence in the Midwest. The project will support the work of between 5-10 journalists in the Midwest region who will be selected for training and skills assistance based on proposed investigative reporting projects that tackle this key issue. The funds will also support a special panel discussion on gun issues at the Sixth Annual Harry Frank Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America, scheduled for January-February, 2011.

"With this grant, John Jay now stands at the forefront of new media initiatives around the country that are intended to broaden and improve investigative and multimedia reporting at a time when the news industry is undergoing profound transformation," said CMCJ Director Stephen Handelman. "Criminal justice journalism in particular has been deeply affected by the shrinking of newsrooms and the strain on newsroom resources, and as a result public debate on gun violence and other crucial issues has suffered."

In addition to buying the "news" in Columbus, the Joyce Foundation grant money was funneled through the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to fund articles at The Chicago Reporter, Minnesota Public Radio, Chicago Sun-Times, Grand Rapids Press, Chicago News Co-operative, and Chicago Public Radio.[6]

If it isn't already clear about how they were hoping these articles would turn out, consider that grant recipients attended a "skills workshop" on November 15, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois, where they were indoctrinated with speeches by spokespersons from Joyce Foundation-funded anti-gun rights organizations including Legal Community Against Gun Violence and the Violence Policy Center.[7]

In January 2011, the journalists attended yet another seminar, this time in New York. Panelists included the Chief of Staff to the Office of Justice Programs at the Obama administration's Department of Justice, and the President of the anti-gun rights ACLU.[8]

With the table having been set, and the money paid, the Joyce Foundation need only to wait for the propaganda meal to be served to the American people.

Ethics be Damned

In the SPJ Code of Ethics, journalists are told to "distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labeled and not misrepresent fact or context."

The Dispatch articles, which were written specifically to earn a paycheck from a foundation known for its support for anti-gun rights efforts, make no such distinction. The Joyce-funded advocacy articles are reported as news, not editorial commentary, and the only clue to the fact that the articles were written with an agenda came in the form of a footnoted mention of the John Jay College grant. Of course when other news agencies, such as the Associated Press, pick up the articles and broadcast them to hundreds of news outlets across the country, no indication of the fact that the articles were bought and paid for was given at all.[9]

The SBJ Code of Ethics says that journalists should "Test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error. Deliberate distortion is never permissible."

But does anyone believe that the Joyce Foundation is expecting to pay good money for an article that concludes, for example, that more guns equal less crime?

Journalists are also encouraged by the SBJ to "Examine their own cultural values and avoid imposing those values on others."

But does anyone believe that the Joyce Foundation sent the journalists to two major anti-gun seminars for any other reason than to infuse their values, and their writing, with the notion that guns are evil?

Last year, The Seattle Times wrote an article entitled "Does Gates funding of media taint objectivity?" In it, The Times revealed that much of what the world sees in the news these days is, in fact, bought and paid for by leftist foundations like Joyce, whose sole goal is to use the media influence public opinion in their favor.

Did you catch ABC's recent special on an incubator to boost preemie survival in Africa and a new machine to diagnose tuberculosis in the developing world?

Perhaps you saw Ray Suarez's three-part series on poverty and AIDS in Mozambique on the PBS NewsHour. Or listened to Public Radio International's piece on the rationing of kidney dialysis in South Africa.

Beyond their subject matter, these reports have something else in common: They were all bankrolled by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Better-known for its battles against global disease, the giant philanthropy has also become a force in journalism.

The foundation's grants to media organizations such as ABC and The Guardian, one of Britain's leading newspapers, raise obvious conflict-of-interest questions: How can reporting be unbiased when a major player holds the purse strings?

The answer, of course, is that it cannot. Just as Theodore Decker could not remain unbiased in his Dispatch articles about gun violence, a UK Guardian reporter admitted to The Times that she "shies away from coverage of the foundation — positive or negative — for fear of being accused of a conflict." Not covering an issue because you are being paid is just as much about bias as covering an issue in a favorable way to the entity that is providing funding.

Again, from The Seattle Times:

But direct funding of media organizations is only one way the world's most powerful foundation influences what the public reads, hears and watches.

To garner attention for the issues it cares about, the foundation has invested millions in training programs for journalists. It funds research on the most effective ways to craft media messages. Gates-backed think tanks turn out media fact sheets and newspaper opinion pieces. Magazines and scientific journals get Gates money to publish research and articles. Experts coached in Gates-funded programs write columns that appear in media outlets from The New York Times to The Huffington Post, while digital portals blur the line between journalism and spin.

The efforts are part of what the foundation calls "advocacy and policy." Over the past decade, Gates has devoted $1 billion to these programs, which now account for about a tenth of the giant philanthropy's $3 billion-a-year spending. The Gates Foundation spends more on policy and advocacy than most big foundations — including Rockefeller and MacArthur — spend in total.

Much of the money goes to analyses of policy questions, such as the best way to finance vaccines for poor countries. But the "advocacy" side of the equation is essentially public relations: an attempt to influence decision-makers and sway public opinion. The ultimate goal is to boost funding and focus from governments, businesses and other foundations for the battle against disease and poverty — particularly now, as Congress considers deep cuts in foreign aid.

The bottom line clearly seems to be that if you have the cash, reporters around the world are willing to write whatever kind of "news" you want them to.

With the millions and millions being spent by on "advocacy and policy" efforts like this, it is easy for grassroots activists to feel as though there is no hope.

But as Buckeye Firearms Association Legislative Chair Ken Hanson recently pointed out in a response to an anti-gun rights (what else?) Cleveland Plain Dealer editorial, "unlike anti-gun groups and their shills, the pro-gun grassroots movement is all-volunteer. You will not see BFA getting large Joyce Foundation grants in order to pay their personnel a salary. Instead, you see us taking unpaid time away from our jobs, burning our own $4 per gallon gasoline, working for a cause we believe in. There is no force on Earth that can match that..."

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman. He was NOT paid to write this article.

Footnotes [1] Exposed: Ohio anti-gunners' 2004 & 2005 IRS returns

[2] - Joyce Foundation

[3] Obama Picks Chicago Anti-Gun Guy Andrew Traver to Head ATF

[4] - Joyce Foundation

[5] ibid

[6] Covering Gun Violence

[7] Gun Violence Seminar - Chicago Agenda

[8] 6th annual HF Guggenheim Symposium on Crime in America

[9] Ohio gun violence costs lives, millions of dollars, Boston Herald, May 29, 2011,

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