A multi-million-dollar grant from a major media conglomerate to a communications school here has been hailed by some as a shining example of corporate philanthropy working to improve the quality of journalism.
But others view it as a worrisome case of undue influence of media corporations on the formation of journalists.
Last June GFR Media, Puerto Rico’s largest media company, gave a five-million-dollar grant to the Communications School of Universidad del Sagrado CorazÃ³n (USC), one of the country’s leading private universities. Upon receiving the grant, the university changed the school’s name to FerrÃ© Rangel School of Communication, after the FerrÃ©-Rangel family, which owns GFR Media.
GFR Media runs three local daily newspapers, including El Nuevo DÃa, Puerto Rico’s most widely read daily, and 10 business web sites. It is part of Grupo FerrÃ© Rangel, a family-owned portfolio of companies and investments which includes real estate, printing, marketing and health services.
GFR Media and USC already have a history of collaboration. Together they run Agenda Ciudadana, a roundtable of business and civil society leaders that aims to enhance citizen participation in public affairs, and the PR Center for Press Freedom (CLP), founded and funded by El Nuevo DÃa, which is housed in the USC Campus.
“This centre was founded to educate the citizenry about freedom of expression, which is our dearest human right,” said CLP director Helga Serrano.
The centre works with high school students, holding journalism summits, forming journalism clubs and giving youths hands-on for print media and digital radio workshops.
“We encourage people to read the media with a critical eye,” said Serrano. “The FerrÃ©s have been totally supportive of us on that. An alert and questioning public pushes the media out of their comfort zone.”
Serrano does not believe that accepting five million dollars from GFR Media and having the school renamed after the FerrÃ©-Rangel family compromises the institution in any undue way.
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