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Reckless reporting hurts

By | 2018-01-16T16:34:12-05:00 October 31st, 2017|Uncategorized|

In the media world, there’s investigative journalism – and then there’s reckless reporting.
At a time when organizations are hurting more than ever for donations, some “reckless reporters” are using out-of-context statistics to up their page hits – to the detriment of organizations doing legitimate work in their fields.
We refer, of course, to the scandal created by online gay blog Queerty, whose post last week named the “Five Worst Gay Charities for Your Dollar.” Number two on their list – Ferndale center Affirmations.
While Queerty Editor Japhy Grant, who wrote the blog along with a “Five Best Gay Charities” counterpart, makes a valid point in that it’s important to look critically at organizations before you donate to them, it’s equally important to look critically at statistics before you misuse them.
For example, Queerty obtained their information from the Web site Charity Navigator, which specifically states that the ratings they provide are based on tax forms alone, and should be paired with investigations as to how effective the charities are, what the employees do and what impact they have had in their respective areas.
While an interview after the fact with Grant showed that he didn’t mean for the blog to be taken as a direct message for who people should donate to, the message is lost in translation – due largely to the fact that the disclaimer present on Charity Navigator’s site is nowhere to be found on Queerty.
Instead, readers are doing exactly that. Several have written to Between The Lines and called Affirmations, outraged by CEO Leslie Thompson’s salary and the supposed “misuse” of their donated dollars.
While we can’t speak for other organizations dissed by the site, here are the Affirmations facts Queerty failed to mention:
– The data used is from 2007, a year when the non-profit opened up their new center in Ferndale. As much of their fundraising dollars went to that endeavor – which has helped to skyrocket their efforts – less of it was spent on programming.
– In her tenure, Thompson has turned the organization into the largest LGBT center in the state, and has tripled their fundraising income.
– The previous year, Charity Navigator gave Affirmations a score of three stars, which would have placed them in the “Five Best” category.
– As a result of limited donations, Affirmations has cut travel, staff, overhead costs, hours and the salaries of their management – including that of Thompson.
But Queery wouldn’t know any of that. Why? Because they failed to look into it. Grant claims a call to Affirmations was made and an e-mail sent just one day before the story went to print – though no staffer received the call or e-mail. Moreover, though all organizations on the list were offered the chance to respond, facts about the effectiveness of their programs, the non-profits’ histories, and quotes from those who work for or use the organizations’ services were absent.
Queerty Editor Grant insists that his article was not intended to stop people from donating to these organizations. But the damage is done.
Affirmations is hurting for funds and they’re doing all they can to continue to provide services to people in Michigan’s LGBT community who need them. They’ve cut all they can – and then some – but irresponsible articles like the one posted on Queerty just fuel the flames that are burning Affirmations to the ground due to lack of support from the very community it is trying to help.
If Queerty’s aim was to publish a controversial story that upped their page hits, job well done. But if they truly, as they claim, were trying to do justice to penny-pinching donors, we’d all be better off doing the research on our own.

About the Author:

BTL Staff
Between The Lines has been publishing LGBTQ-related content in Southeast Michigan since the early '90s. This year marks the publication's 27th anniversary.