The PJ Tatler

Will the Texas Tribune's New Border Bureau Conduct Non-Partisan Journalism, or Advocacy Journalism?

The Texas Tribune announced today that it is opening up a new border bureau. The notice about the new bureau, written by the Tribune’s Evan Smith, is quite transparent in explaining how the Tribune is funding the new effort.

I’m pleased to announce that we’ve received a $300,000 grant from the Ford Foundation, one of the most-respected philanthropic institutions in the world, that will enable us to dramatically expand our coverage of how precipitous demographic shifts are altering the public policy landscape in Texas.

The question is, are there strings attached? The Ford Foundation is not an unbiased or neutral funding source. It engages in advocacy on immigration issues. It casts those issues not as centering on security or protecting American citizens or their property, or protecting our nation’s sovereignty or the border states’ integrity, but on “social justice.”

A greater influx of immigrants has come to the United States in the past 25 years than at any time in history, engendering a backlash that has stripped large segments of the immigrant community of their rights. This population confronts large-scale immigration roundups, the denial of due process in deportation proceedings, abusive detention conditions, and increased hate crimes and bias attacks.

A growing number of aggressive local measures attempting to restrict every aspect of life, including housing, education and employment, push immigrants into a marginalized existence. In addition, migrants suffer increased violation of their human rights along their routes of travel to the United States and other destination countries such as Mexico.

What We’re Doing

We support organizations at national, state and local levels that are engaged in immigrant rights advocacy, including efforts to secure comprehensive immigration reform that addresses the realities of migration in both sending and receiving countries. We also support institutions that are crucial to building an effective and lasting movement to protect immigrants’ rights.

Learn more about how our strategies and approaches shape our grant making.

Note that last line. The page it leads to is dead at the moment I am writing this. But it’s clear just from the tenor of the post that the Ford Foundation does not approach grants such as the one it has given the Texas Tribune from a position of neutrality. The Ford Foundation is engaged in advocacy, which is their right. The Tribune, though, bills itself as “non-partisan” journalism. But it’s evident that the Tribune’s benefactors expect some policy return for their investments. Is this not a conflict of interest?

Until the new bureau produces a product it would be premature to judge it as biased. But the potential for bias has unfortunately been baked into the effort. Texans need stronger, more sustained and responsible reporting about the border and the many issues that are related to it, from security to corrupt local officials to the cartel drug war to the impact that the porous border has at the local, state and national level. We do not need more leftwing advocacy dressed up as journalism.