First, Connell's e-mail -- followed by my response:
Jim -- Your March 26 blog about the Gannett Foundation contains several false and misleading statements.
As I told you in response to your questions before you published your blog, the program allowing Gannett executives to recommend grants to the Gannett Foundation is administered in accordance with the guidelines for the GannettMatch program, NOT the guidelines that apply to third-party grants. The GannettMatch guidelines are available on the Foundation website. All Gannett employees may have their gifts matched under the GannettMatch guidelines. In addition, senior Gannett executives may request that the Foundation make non-matching grants up to a specified dollar limit provided the grants otherwise comply with the GannettMatch guidelines.
- You said: "For example, at Dubow's direction, the foundation gave $40,000 to the University of Texas at Austin, where he graduated. The money went mostly for endowed scholarships. The community grants guidelines for everyone else, on the foundation's website, do not list Texas as an eligible state." (emphasis added) The GannettMatch guidelines do not list Texas as an eligible state because ALL states are eligible. The GannettMatch guidelines allow grants to "Tax-exempt degree-granting two- and four-year colleges, universities, graduate or professional schools, engineering or technical institutions and public and private preschools, elementary and secondary schools in the United States and its territories." You imply that a grant to the University of Texas is improper because you erroneously refer to the guidelines that apply to third-party grants, which do generally focus on communities where Gannett does business.
- You said: "At the request of Chief Financial Officer Gracia Martore, the foundation gave $45,000 to private Wellesley College near Boston, where she graduated. Gannett owns no papers or stations in Massachusetts." (emphasis added) You imply that a gift to a school located in Massachusetts is improper. Again, the fact that Wellesley College is located in Massachusetts is irrelevant, as gifts to colleges throughout the US are permitted under the GannettMatch guidelines. You made the same mistake in your discussion of grants to other schools recommended by John Curley, Doug McCorkindale, Cecil Walker and Richard Clapp.
- You said: "The school's [Wellesley College] website doesn't show a journalism department, or any journalism classes." You imply that if Wellesley doesn't offer a journalism class that makes it ineligible for a Gannett Foundation gift because you erroneously refer to the guidelines that apply to third-party grants, which do consider grants to journalism education and training projects as part of our media grants program. There is no such requirement under GannettMatch guidelines.
- You said: "Also at Martore's direction, the foundation gave $5,000 for "general support" to the exclusive Potomac School in McLean, Va., near Gannett's headquarters. The foundation's guidelines for the general public say it will not support elementary or secondary schools, except for special programs." Again, you imply that a gift to a private secondary school is improper because you erroneously refer to the guidelines that apply to third-party grants. As already noted, the GannettMatch guidelines allow grants to private secondary schools.
- You said: "$30,000 to Young Life Williamson in Franklin, Tenn., at the behest of USA Today Publisher Craig Moon, who has long ties to the state. Young Life's website says "every Young Life gathering or event is intended to give kids the chance to experience God's love and to consider the relevance of Jesus Christ for their lives." The foundation's public guidelines prohibit gifts to "programs or initiatives where the primary purpose is the promotion of religious doctrine or tenets." Again, you refer to the wrong guidelines. The GannettMatch guidelines state "Gifts to sectarian organizations may be matched at the Foundation's discretion, if the organization uses the funds primarily to benefit the community. For example, gifts to a church soup kitchen that serves the general public will be considered for matching, while gifts to a church building fund will not."
Your repeated comparison of these specific gifts to the Foundation's third-party grant guidelines rather than the GannettMatch guidelines suggests that these gifts were improper and did not comply with the Foundation's own guidelines, which is false and misleading. This is particularly disturbing since I specifically called your attention to the distinction between the GannettMatch guidelines and those that apply to third-party guidelines to avoid any possible confusion.
I ask that you immediately publish a correction.
P.S. As I told her, the Foundation gave around $33 million in charitble giving, community grants and matching gifts during 2004-2006, not the $18 million you reported.
How I responded
I never said the executive-led grants are subject to the guidelines that apply to the public. In fact, that's the entire point of what I wrote: These executives have access to a charity program with guidelines that are far more liberal than those applying to the general public, and to average employees. That is a fact.
I noted that you compared the executive-led program to GannettMatch. But as I also noted -- and as you repeat [in your e-mail raising objections] -- the executive program does not require any money from the executives themselves, unlike the program for average employees. That is a fact.
Finally, my references to the third-party guidelines in the items about Dubow, Martore, Curley, etc., are not erroneous. Those guidelines exist, and are a fact. Once again, I included them to demonstrate to my readers that the guidelines for the general public are more restrictive.
Also, I never said any of the Gannett Foundation's gifts to schools require that those schools offer journalism classes. In the case of Wellesley, I think it's interesting that the foundation gave $45,000 to a school that doesn't show much interest in journalism.
Having said all this, I would be delighted if you or Craig Dubow wrote a letter to me, for publication on my blog, stating any objections. As is my policy, I don't publish letters such as the one you wrote [above], unless I have permission to share them.
Note: In my response, I neglected to address Connell's assertion that the foundation "gave around $33 million in charitble giving, community grants and matching gifts during 2004-2006, not the $18 million you reported."
I have no idea where that $33 million comes from. I reported the total, $18 million, that appeared on the federal income tax returns.