On Wednesday, two Princeton residents who are part of a Facebook group with more than 770 members called “PHS Parents Discussion” posted comments in the group making false claims about Planet Princeton. We want to set the record straight.
One parent claimed that Planet Princeton fabricates stories and receives donations in exchange for positive news coverage. She claimed we receive financial support from a specific group, but did not mention the group. A second parent then responded in the thread claiming that Planet Princeton is biased in support of people who take out advertisements or donate to the site. The parent also said she bets Princeton Superintendent of Schools Carol Kelley’s public relations firm is a generous benefactor to Planet Princeton.
These statements, which basically claim that Planet Princeton accepts bribes for news coverage, are false and defamatory. Planet Princeton does not give positive coverage to any group or individual in exchange for money, advertising, subscriptions, access, or any other kind of perk.
Planet Princeton is able to report the news because of three main revenue sources — advertising, voluntary subscriptions, and grants. Without all of these funding sources, we would not be able to continue reporting.
Most news outlets at the local and national level, both for-profit and non-profit, depend on such a combination to continue publishing. National, regional, and local publications are supported by voluntary subscriptions, and many local print newspapers that have historically depended on paid subscribers have shifted to promoting online subscriptions. No one revenue source is enough to support news publishers at any level amid all the changes in the news ecosystem and business model.
Voluntary subscribers in no way affect our editorial decisions, as we make clear on our voluntary member page. The average subscription is $15 a month.
We do not have and never have had any advertising on our website from the Princeton Public Schools, its administrators, or its contractors or consultants. None of the school board members, administrators, or firms they do business with are current voluntary subscribers. Even if they were, this would not affect our coverage.
As many people who have followed our website for the past decade know, we have sometimes had a tumultuous and strained relationship with the school board. In fact, just three years ago a former school board member’s spouse accused us of the opposite – of writing stories critical of the board of education and school district in exchange for bribes from politicians.
This week, Planet Princeton had to consult with a lawyer to address the defamation claims. The lawyer sent the moderator of the group and the two commenters letters to cease and desist.
The post was taken down on Friday. As part of the cease and desist letter, Planet Princeton asked one of the moderators of the group, which is moderated by two Cranbury parents and one Princeton parent, for a retraction and an apology.
At 6:40 a.m. on Sunday, the retraction and apology were posted to the group. But the post was removed within just a few hours. In response to an email from Planet Princeton questioning why the post has been removed, the moderators have not provided an explanation.
If readers have any questions or concerns about our funding sources or want more information about our business model, please reach out to me via email.
Our comment policy can be found here: Commenting on Planet Princeton
Our letter policy can be found here: Guidelines for Letters