Media Donates Politically in Small Numbers — But Mostly to Democrats

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


The investigative unit at MSNBC.com just published a long study of which journalists donate money to political candidates and causes. Campaign contributions by a journalist are often seen as acceptable things — the assumption being that the contribution is part of the journalist’s private life and the partisan support it implies won’t affect his or her work. Some newsrooms don’t care, some ban contributions by political reporters and editors (Abe Rosenthal, the former New York Times editor, is reported to have said, “I don’t care if you sleep with elephants as long as you don’t cover the circus.”), and some ban donations altogether. But the workplace rules that govern or don’t govern this issue are less interesting that the picture it paints of journalism as an industry.

Of the 144 journalists who made political contributions between 2004 and the first quarter of 2007, 125 gave to Democrats and liberal causes. Just 17 gave to Republicans, while two gave to both. There are some obvious ones — a producer for Bill O’Reilly gave to Republicans — but there are some surprises — a researcher for Brit Hume gave to Democrats. (Penance?)

Salon.com loves Democrats, as do Newsweek and Rolling Stone. But perhaps no one helps out the left more than The New Yorker, which places no restrictions on donations and had fully 10 writers and staffer donate to Democrats (and none to Republicans). You can see the full list here. What is it about journalism as a business that attracts left-leaning folks? Or is there something about working in journalism that makes a lefty out of you over time? Speculation is welcomed in the comments.

Maybe the most valuable conclusion here, though, is that journalists mostly take pains to maintain objectivity — the 144 who have donated represent less than one percent of the reported 100,000 journalists nationwide.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest