IDS turns down money raised to send staffers to NCAA tourney

This email came in Tuesday afternoon from a former Indiana Daily Student staffer who asked not to be named:

“Many alumni were shocked yesterday that a fundraising plea went out on Facebook and other social media, supposedly from the paper, that funding was needed to send reporters to cover the NCAA tournament in Portland. Within hours of the posting, $2000 was raised from concerned alumni, like myself. Upon further investigation, alumni found out this wasn’t approved by the paper and instead was the result of other reporters wanting to attend as well. All money is supposed to be returned.”

In fact, the paper wasn’t behind the fund drive; it was the idea of alum Nathan Hart, who covered Indiana basketball for IDS last year.

Here’s what he wrote on the WePay fundraising page:

The Hoosiers are in the NCAA Tournament, and they are playing in Portland! The IDS is able to pay for half the trip to send the three reporters and a photographer to cover the game(s). The other half? That’ll be out-of-pocket for the basketball reporting crew.

That’s where we can step in! If you’re an IDS alum or just a fan of the student newspaper, we can help the reporters Avi Zaleon, Connor O’Gara, and Kevin Bowen and photographer Chet Strange, who have all covered the team all season, cover that out-of-pocket expense!

Wouldn’t it be great if a bunch of people — fans or IDS alums, excited about helping these IDS reporters and photographer, contributed $25 each to help them on their way to Portland?

“It took off,” Hart writes in an email. “Newspaper alums, friends of student media and others quickly contributed. The outpouring was incredible — people (especially IDS alums) were eager to give. Our goal was $1,800 and we had $1,200 within 12 hours, entirely on small gifts. People were excited about this, posting the link on Facebook and Twitter. In less than 24 hours, we reached the goal.”

In fact, they exceeded it by hundreds of dollars.

Then the plug was pulled.

An editor’s note in today’s paper says that the fundraiser “was not authorized by the IDS and the IDS management and editorial staff were unaware that it even existed until well after several hundred dollars had already been raised.” IDS editor-in-chief Zach Ammerman continues:

The IDS had already committed to pay to send one reporter and a photographer to cover the game, but others also wished to go. They were told they could go if they paid for the plane tickets themselves as our travel budget only allowed for the purchase of two tickets. The others agreed and paid for their own tickets to Portland.

Upon hearing this, an IDS alumnus decided he would try to help us out by starting a fundraiser, with the money going to help all of the reporters and photographers. This helpful alumnus didn’t think to ask the IDS’ management and editorial staff if this would be okay.

While I appreciated the outpouring of support for the IDS in this fundraiser, the IDS unfortunately cannot accept donations for our coverage.


Nathan Hart explains “how this thing got started, the goals and the issues that arose” in an email after the jump.

Email from Nathan Hart:

I’ll try to explain how this thing got started, the goals and the issues that arose. I wrote in full, mainly because I wanted to lay out everything exactly as is — deception is the last thing I want to do.

The IDS has a four-person basketball reporting crew cover most games (two reporters, one columnist and a photographer) during the season. This being the NCAA Tournament, it was a big event to cover, (especially with Indiana’s recent history). I covered the team last season for the IDS, so when I was told that those going to Portland agreed to pay half out-of-their-own pocket, I immediately thought of an idea to contact IDS alums and friends of student media to help cover those out-of-pocket expenses. They are college students, after all, with limited bank accounts! This was not a fundraiser for the IDS — the agreed upon half was already established — and I saw this as an opportunity to contribute to cover that half which they were having to provide. The money was not going to the IDS; it was going to the individuals. That was clearly explained multiple times in the information section of the gift page.

Nathan Hart

So it took off. Newspaper alums, friends of student media and others quickly contributed. The outpouring was incredible — people (especially IDS alums) were eager to give. Our goal was $1,800 and we had $1,200 within 12 hours, entirely on small gifts. People were excited about this, posting the link on Facebook and Twitter. In less than 24 hours, we reached the goal.

Sunday evening (the same day the page was set up), I was contacted by a managing editor at the IDS to confirm that this was not run by the IDS or an employee of the IDS, and I verified that it was not (it was run by me). Monday morning, I contacted the editor-in-chief to further verify to him that this was not affiliated with the IDS. He replied that fundraising was against policy, but also said that they couldn’t wait for the money to come in before ordering plane tickets (which was a confusing statement — either it was against policy or they couldn’t wait for the money which wasn’t going to the IDS anyways). However, about 30 minutes later, I was told the plane tickets had been cancelled that morning. Again, the money being raised was never going to the IDS, but to the four individuals.

The new plan from the IDS was to send two people fully paid for, and if the other two reporters wanted to go, it would be on their own dime, completely independent of the IDS. Since that still meant the original goal of sending four reporters without them reaching in to their own bank accounts remained, that was the new plan. Half of the trip (the two people traveling completely independent of the IDS) was out-of-pocket expense. As they were traveling independent of the IDS, this further distanced the IDS from this money. I talked to several people on Monday — including many donors — who immediately suggested that as the obvious route to cover half the costs (and still, all of the out-of-pocket expenses). There was nothing deceptive about where the money was going.

When all these questions arose, I paused on immediately distributing the money, and in an e-mail, I told the IDS editor that we would have the ability to refund. The IDS urged that was the route I should take. Again, every donor I talked to suggested otherwise to cover the out-of-pocket expense of the two people (which would still be half the expenses of the entire trip — the goal from the beginning) now traveling to Portland completely independent of the IDS.

There was never a goal to try to hide anything. Many people kept giving after we raised the intended goal. If donors request a refund, they can do that and it will be fully refunded. But again, there was nothing deceptive about where this money was going — covering the own expenses to get the four to Portland without killing their own bank accounts. That was the original and only goal of this idea.

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