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New York Times considering seeking support from foundations, but does not intend to go nonprofit

New York Times considering seeking support from foundations, but does not intend to go nonprofit

Poynter's Bill Mitchell reported that the New York Times is considering seeking funding from foundations to help support some of its news-gathering costs. Nothing is definite, however, and the paper has no intentions of becoming fully nonprofit, Mitchell was told by Craig Whitney, an assistant managing editor at the Times who serves as the paper's standards editor.

Whitney said the paper's editors "haven't reached any conclusions and haven't gone to any foundations" but that "we've begun to ask ourselves whether it would be possible to get the kind of support that NPR does from foundations for its journalism." He specified that such discussions began around the time that ProPublica launched early last year but have picked up in 2009.

According to NPR, the home page of the Times' Dot Earth blog already receives some support from a fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. It seems likely that if the paper was to seek support from nonprofits, it would be to fund particular areas of coverage, such as investigative journalism, that qualify as public interest reporting. Whitney stressed to Mitchell that the Times would be careful to avoid letting foundations have a say in specific coverage and would guard against being influenced by any particular agenda.

The New York Times has already collaborated with nonprofit investigative journalism outfit ProPublica on two major stories, including one front-page piece, and the two organisations are working on a third. Thus, the paper has been exposed to the nonprofit's way of working, and such an experience would presumably help editors decide if it is something that the paper could consider.

ProPublica's success, along with that of local publications such as the VoiceOfSanDiego, seems to have inspired much discussion amongst publishers of the possibility of going nonprofit, and a US Senate hearing debated at length whether to make it easier for papers to go nonprofit in May. The NYT is in fact often looked at as an example, and back in April, a professor examined four different options for how a nonprofit NYT could work. The plusses of going nonprofit are clear: guaranteed income to support good journalism and a degree of protection from market forces. Criticism of the idea has arisen, however, because it could be seen as propping up an out-of-date business model and hence stifling innovation, and it would mean that papers would have to refrain from endorsing political candidates.

Source: Poynter, NPR, New York Times



Emma Goodman


2009-07-20 11:02

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