Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Kid Service Evolves and Eyes New Funds

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

Kid Service Evolves and Eyes New Funds

Article excerpt

Children's Express focuses on diversity in one of its projects, while trying to diversify its financial base with corporate cash

Children's Express (CE), which recently turned 25, isn't a kid anymore. But the news organization has a number of projects that are young or just being born.

One focuses on diversity in America, and another involves diversifying CE's financial base.

Like a lot of nonprofits, CE relies on grants and gifts for much of its operating expenses. "We're not content to go on with catch-as-catch-can financing," said Charles McConnell, executive vice president and chief marketing officer. So CE is gearing up for a "cause marketing" initiative that invites companies to sponsor or partner various efforts. For instance, a company might fund a new CE bureau in a certain city.

Cause marketing helps a company's image, which can improve sales, raise staff morale, and attract good employees, said McConnell. And the dollars obviously help the recipients.

But should an educational/journalistic entity like CE -- whose kid reporters produce adult-targeted content for print, broadcast, and interactive media -- accept funds from firms it might be faced with doing negative pieces about? Is there potential for conflicts of interest and compromised reporting?

McConnell said many media outlets that receive money from advertisers or answer to nonjournalistic corporate parents are able to separate "church and state." And he added about CE: "The kids run the show. We couldn't compromise them if we wanted to, and we don't want to." For one thing, McConnell noted, CE children are volunteers who "don't have to worry about their jobs." And companies contemplating an affiliation with CE will be told upfront about the independence of the kid reporters.

What does an outside observer think of CE's getting corporate money? "It's not impossible to navigate this territory, but it's challenging," said Bob Steele, director of the ethics program at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla. He said CE "must be economically viable to carry out its journalistic mission," but has to "make sure its editorial content is beyond question."

McConnell said the first step in attracting cause marketers is to raise CE's profile. The prize-winning service has a distinguished history dating back to a CE reporter's breaking the story of Jimmy Carter choosing Walter Mondale as his running mate in 1976. …

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