I don’t know who made the call to do this, the Guardian newspaper or the Gates Foundation.
But I don’t think it was a good call — to do this somewhat gushing story on Melinda Gates.
Earlier this week, the British newspaper and the Seattle philanthropy announced they had partnered to create a new online news site at the Guardian devoted to global development.
The arrangement is a bit awkward since the Gates Foundation is also one of the biggest players in global development. But it’s also not that unique anymore, as media organizations struggle to survive financially, for organizations — including philanthropies or advocacy groups — to fund coverage of targeted areas of interest.
And, really, how could it be any more awkward than some of the more traditional conflicts-of-interest in the so-called mainstream media? (FOX TV news comes to mind …)
But still, I think this looks bad.
Not Melinda, of course. She comes off looking great, and I’m fine with that. And I understand the desire of both the Guardian and the Gates Foundation to bring more attention to these issues.
What looks bad is the rapidity with which the Guardian moved to write a glowing article about one of its financial benefactors. There are plenty of other leaders in the field of global health and development worth profiling as we head toward the big UN development confab next week.
More importantly, there are plenty of critics of the Gates Foundation. There is already an inherent conflict of interest in this partnership. It’s manageable, but the appearance of too much coziness between the Guardian and the Gates Foundation can by itself stifle healthy debate and constructive criticism.
Doing this article so soon after launching the Gates-sponsored site just looks obsequious.
What do you think?