David Westphal, OJR
Could newspapers and local broadcasters begin seeking philanthropic support from the civic foundations and private donors that are starting to bankroll news non-profits? It appears entirely likely. With for-profit media watching their news-gathering resources dwindle, some editors say they’re open to the idea of seeking help from donors.
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Charlotte Hall, president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, told me the idea raises multiple questions about how newspapers could solicit philanthropic support and still retain credibility. But bottom line? “I believe that a model could emerge for foundations to fund some local reporting at newspapers — investigative reporting or an important local beat, for example,” she said in an e-mail. “A new kind of firewall would be needed to assure independent reporting and unencumbered editing.”
The idea that for-profit media might seek subsidies from community foundations came into sharp focus last week, when the Knight Foundation awarded $5 million to 21 civic foundations that pitched plans for expanding news and information in their communities. Some of the ideas sounded much aligned with the mission statements of local newspapers and TV stations.