Back in April of this year, I wrote a blog postin which Berks County Community Foundation president Kevin Murphy noted that grant-making foundations, which traditionally support philanthropy, might turn their support to journalism due to the changing nature of media and technology. And as a matter of fact, foundations have subsidized nonprofit newsrooms in the past, but support has now been generated for a major news outlet, the Los Angeles Times.
According to James Rainey of theLos Angeles Times, the paper received a $1 million grant from the Ford Foundation to support coverage and reporters. Specifically, the two-year grant will be used by the LA Times to hire five reporters that will cover “the Vietnamese, Korean and other immigrant communities, the California prison system, the border region and Brazil.” Rainey notes that The Times previously covered these beats, but with reporters that shared multiple duties.
In addition, the grant will support the Times, who’s “parent company, Tribune Co., has been operating under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since December 2008,” according to The Wall Street Journal. Over the past five years, the paper has gone through multiple rounds of layoffs, which reduced its newsroom staff by a third.
The Ford Foundation has given money to for-profit media outlets like the online Global Post, but the two-year grant to theTimesis the foundation’s first support for a major mainstream newspaper. This of course, raised many questions about influence of coverage and the editorial process for theTimes; would it be directed by the Ford Foundation? In a word, no, according to Joseph Voeller, a spokesman for the Ford Foundation.
Voeller stated that the “funds will only be used to support principled, non-partisan news coverage that subscribes to well-established journalistic principles and significantly advances public knowledge of a specific set of important social issues as selected by the Los Angeles Times. No funds will support the work of the paper's editorial board."
This move will help provide coverage on issues that would otherwise be lost in budget cuts and buyouts. Now, as the grant gets underway, one can expect (and hope) additional foundations will come forward to support other mainstream newspapers.
Overall, do you think this is a good development in the evolution of media funding?
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