It was nice to see the movie Spotlight winning an Academy Award as best picture. The movie focused on a team of Boston Globe investigative reporters who uncovered extensive abuse by priests. The Chronicle of Philanthropy had a very good opinion piece by Pablo Eisenberg entitled "Philanthropy Needs More Reporters Like Those in ‘Spotlight’"
The charity sector, which is about 10% of the Canadian economy, largely gets a pass from journalists. The vast majority of articles on the sector are puff pieces celebrating a successful fundraising event, a major gift, or a milestone of a charity. When charities are criticized it is often based on an incorrect understanding of the obligations of charities or what is a charity or the meaning of a charity filing. There has been some very good investigative reporting in the past. For example, Kevin Donovan of the Toronto Star or the now retired David Baines of the Vancouver Sun. How many journalists cover the automotive sector? How many journalists cover the entertainment sector? Do we even have one journalist in Canada who spends half of their time covering non-profits and charities? We need a greater appreciation by journalists of the extent and importance of the non-profit and charitable sector. Journalists should be taught in journalism school about the sector. They should understand the sources that are available on the sector and the limitations on those sources. They should understand that although non-profits and charities are on the side of angels, a few of them are anything but angels. The sector is too important to continue to be ignored.
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Mark Blumberg is a partner at the law firm of Blumberg Segal LLP in Toronto and works almost exclusively in the areas of non-profit and charity law.