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Richard Levick

December 02, 2019

What Happens When Nonprofits Get Caught in the Klieg Lights?

I’ve always been a Jeffersonian at heart, believing the cure for bad speech is more speech, not regulation, prior restraints and intimidation. It’s my conviction than an independent Fourth Estate is essential to a healthy democracy. At a time when a Free Press is coming under more sustained attack than at any time in our lifetimes, I am loathe to pile on. With increased competition from behemoths like Facebook, the Russians, trolls and source-less opinion pieces parading and optimized as news, while traditional news organizations struggle with smaller news-gathering budgets, fewer reporters and ever faster deadlines, the old journalistic goal of “afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted” has never been more challenging.

Yet, media outlets still deserve criticism when they make mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes are so colossal they devastate organizations – especially non-profits and the individuals who run them and the people they serve. In this time when our nation’s historic commitment to the First Amendment is under sustained attack, it is more important than ever for our media to be held accountable and when proven wrong, apologize. Truth should not be a rounding error.

Such was the case in 2016 when CBS and The New York Times separately attacked the Wounded Warrior Project, a then-thriving charity generating $400 million per year to help support military families. After the bad press went viral and devastated donations by 50% and despite independent reports eviscerating both media institutions for their sloppy reporting, CBS and the Times did…nothing. No retractions, no apologies. Not only did they not get at the truth, but they harmed the families of the people who put their lives in jeopardy to protect these very freedoms.

A free press, next to liberty, is our greatest freedom. Arrogance is one of our greatest sins.

Enjoy the read and honor our veterans.

Richard Levick

Read: What Happens When Nonprofits Get Caught In The Klieg Lights?

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