Letter: IRR ‘hit piece’ - Businesslive

Oct 17, 2019
17 October 2019 - Genevieve Quintal’s report on the Institute of Race Relations (Is the IRR becoming a Lobby Group for a Faction in the DA? October 15) was confused and misleading, and at odds with what we told her.

Genevieve Quintal’s report on the Institute of Race Relations  (Is the IRR becoming a Lobby Group for a Faction in the DA? October 15) was confused and misleading, and at odds with what we told her.

She twice used the phrase “it is understood”, a device used by journalists to introduce rumour into their reports.

The first time it was “understood” that the IRR had to change its funding model because big funding had dried up, and the second it was “understood” that the incentive to grow its donor base “likely influenced its behaviour as an organisation, prioritising issues and positions that resonate first with its financial base”.

Those statements are both factually incorrect. The IRR does innovate its funding model regularly, but donor and project funding as a share of total revenue is within a few percentage points of where it was five years ago. Membership growth has been pleasing, as a strategy of taking our information “out of boardrooms and into living rooms” pays off. Total revenue is sharply up and the organisation has seen strong growth in both senior staffers and levels of output.

It was further made explicitly clear to Quintal that IRR support is drawn from people and groups who support its long-held positions in favour of a market economy, property rights, individual liberty, freedom of speech and the rule of law — a fact apparent from the “unbreakable thread of liberal principle [that] runs through all our actions”. If the pursuit of easy funding determined the positions we took we would be hosting conferences on “whiteness”, writing on the virtues of the AU, and suggesting that the government will imminently introduce structural reforms.

I told your reporter that over the past five years the IRR published 329 in-depth policy papers and submissions, of which a record 86 were published in 2018. Last year, these were in turn promoted via 858 self-authored opinion pieces in newspapers and at 510 briefings and meetings with third parties. This information was not conveyed to your readers, even though it is central to countering the thesis she presented.

To use your reporter’s device: it is “understood” that Business Day set out to publish a hit piece on the IRR. It chose to do so by suggesting that the IRR has been critical of the DA for financial reasons and no longer focuses on the in-depth issues confronting SA. However, when the facts showed otherwise, your newspaper ignored them and published its hit piece anyway.   

Frans Cronje


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