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Foundations and Journalism in the Digital Age (part 2)

October 15, 2007

In a previous post, I referenced an opinion piece by Dan Gillmor, director of the Center for Citizen Media, in which Gillmor offered a number of fundable ideas for community foundations and donor-advised funds interested in preserving and enhancing the vitality of local journalism. One of them was to pay the salary of an investigative journalist at a local newspaper.

Well, as the New York Times reports ("Group Plans to Provide Investigative Journalism"), someone has decided to do something a lot like that.

The "someone" in this case is Herbert and Marion Sandler, the husband-and-wife team that, over the course of 43 years, transformed a small Oakland-based savings and loan with 25 employees and $34 million in assets into Golden West Financial Corporation, one of the nation's biggest mortgage lenders. Last year, the Sandlers pocketed $2.6 billion when they sold Golden West to the Wachovia Corporation for $25 billion.

According to the Times, the Sandlers have hired Paul Steiger, a longtime editor at the Wall Street Journal, to assemble a team of up to two dozen investigative reporters to uncover misdeeds and corruption in government, corporate America, and the nonprofit sector. Under the name Pro Publica, the group will pitch each project to a print or media outlet where it is likely to make the biggest impact. The Sandlers, who are active in Democratic politics, have committed $10 million a year to the effort, which will be based in New York City and operated as a nonprofit.

Steiger, who will be the group's president and editor-in-chief, said Pro Publica plans to provide salaries and benefits that are comparable to those paid by the biggest newspapers in the country.

Richard Tofel, a former assistant publisher and assistant managing editor of the Journal, has been hired to manage the effort, and foundation leaders who have agreed to serve on the board include Alberto Ibarguen, president/CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (and a former publisher of the Miami Herald) and Rebecca Rimel, president and CEO of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

-- Mitch Nauffts

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