Yahoo Gift Horse Looked In Mouth

    October 12, 2006

Yahoo recently donated $1 million to Stanford University’s Knight Fellowship program “to support press freedom.” While that might seem like an innocent gesture, it’s created a bit of a stir. Some people view it “as an act of atonement,” but others “worried the money came from a tainted source.”

Yahoo doesn’t have a sterling record on free speech issues, but James Bettinger, director of the Knight Fellowships, stood by his decision to accept the gift. He spoke to James Hohmann of The Stanford Daily, and said, “It served a need in our program, which is to provide stable funding for international fellows. It left the selection process entirely up to us. We thought this was a good thing.”

Bettinger was also quoted in The Mercury News. “I don’t think it’d be possible to read this as us endorsing what Yahoo did in China,” he told K. Oanh Ha. “We thought it was appropriate that Yahoo, one of the world’s largest news providers, step up and take responsibility for improving the craft of journalism.”

The Yahoo grant apparently prompted “the first debate of any kind” on the Knight Fellowship’s e-mail board, and some strong words were written there. “The fact remains that Yahoo is guilty of despicable acts and should be the object of . . . criticism, not be welcomed as a benefactor,” stated Don Bishoff, a former columnist and Knight fellow.

Bishoff made a reference to Yahoo’s activity in China, which has also drawn fire from Amnesty International (among many others).

The Yahoo gift was only intended, according to a company spokeswoman quoted in The Mercury News, to “demonstrate our support for freedom of expression.”


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Doug is a staff writer for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest eBusiness news.