Plymouth Independent to return an unknown number of donations from elected officials
Arthur Desloges, an elected Town Meeting member and candidate for state representative still listed as a donor
The Plymouth Independent, the non-profit news outlet, will return an unknown number of donations from elected officials received prior to June 2023 contrary to the Independent’s written policy to “avoid” such donations, yet questions remain.
In “A fundraising note from the PI board”, the Independent wrote that “Prior to June, however, we received a flood of contributions from scores of Plymouth residents. That included donations from a handful of elected officials. We apologize for the oversight, and we are grateful to local blogger Jack Gately for calling this to our attention. The donations, which total $860, are being returned.”
1620Today identified a pattern of donations from several well known elected officials received by the Independent despite the publication’s written ethics policy to “avoid” donations from elected officials and candidates which pose an appearance of conflict.
Of the eight questionable donations flagged by 1620Today from elected officials, candidates for office and/or the business they own, two donations were at the “sponsorship” level. A “Founding Sponsorship” and a “Changemaker Founding Sponsor”. The name of the Changemaker Founding Sponsor, a law firm, has since been deleted from the Independent’s sponsor page as have the names of several of the elected officials identified by 1620Today who donated. Presumably these donations have been returned.
The Founding Sponsor remains listed and is also acknowledged as a recurring monthly donor at $1500 per month for February 2024.
Arthur Desloges, an elected Town Meeting member and candidate for state representative is also still listed as a donor as of noon Tuesday.
The Independent did not provide detail as to which donations or how many they returned, only the aggregate dollar amount, they pledged establish “procedures to avoid any similar misstep in the future, ensuring our journalistic integrity remains uncompromised.”
What is a journalistic appearance of conflict? The New York Times explains in their guide on the topic: “The goal of The New York Times is to cover the news as impartially as possible — “without fear or favor,” in the words of Adolph Ochs, our patriarch — and to treat readers, news sources, advertisers and others fairly and openly, and to be seen to be doing so. The reputation of The Times rests upon such perceptions, and so do the professional reputations of its staff members. Thus The Times and members of its news and opinion staff share an interest in avoiding conflicts of interest or an appearance of a conflict.”
Plymouth Rock Publishing is the parent organization of the Plymouth Independent.
There is no evidence the Plymouth Independent altered news coverage as a result of the donations or that donors had an expectation of favorable treatment.
The famous Adolph Ochs “without fear or favor” quote is also employed in the Independent’s own mission statement.
1620Today does not solicit or accept donations, sponsorships or advertising of any kind.