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Student paper scrutinizes Yahoo donation

The student-run Stanford Daily today (Oct. 10) takes a whack at the story about Stanford’s Knight Fellowship program accepting a $1 million grant from Yahoo, a company that has assisted China in arresting two journalists and has acquiesed to that country’s censorship demands.

Unlike the earlier versions of the story (in the NY Times, Chronicle and NPR’s Morning Edition), Stanford Daily reporter managed to get a comment from the first Knight Fellowship journalist who will receive Yahoo money — Imtiaz Ali, a BBC reporter in Pakistan. Ali said in an e-mail: “I have accepted this fellowship because I know there are no strings attached to it from Yahoo! … If the Yahoo! money provides an invaluable opportunity to one journalist to learn more, it’s not a bad deal.”

Today’s story also quotes Kevin Fagan, a Chronicle reporter and current Knight fellow, who equates the grant to a newspaper accepting ads for cigarettes or alcohol. “It certainly is a conversation worth having, but I didn’t see any question about taking the money from the get-go,” Fagan says. But did such a conversation even take place? James Bettinger, the former Mercury News city editor who directs the Knight Fellowships, says that rejecting the Yahoo money was not on the table.

The Stanford Daily also reports that a “sizable majority” of the alumni who have sent e-mails about the grant said they supported accepting the money.

This story, like the others, does not quote any of the Stanford Department of Communication faculty — academics who are usually willing to discuss conflicts of interest in media organizations. (Note: The stylized “Y” was printed with the Stanford Daily story; credit to Ryan Noon.)

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