New Non-Profit News Organziation to be Led by Paul Steiger

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A new, non-partisan, non-profit newsroom producing journalism in the public interest will launch here in January under the name ProPublica. Paul E. Steiger, former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, will serve as president and editor in chief. ProPublica, when fully staffed in 2008, will include 24 fulltime reporters and editors, the largest staff in American journalism devoted solely to investigative reporting. ProPublica will be supported entirely by philanthropy and will provide the articles it produces, free of charge, both through its own Web site and to leading news organizations selected with an eye toward maximizing the impact of each article.

A new, non-partisan, non-profit newsroom producing journalism in the public interest will launch here in January under the name ProPublica. Paul E. Steiger, former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, will serve as president and editor in chief.

ProPublica, when fully staffed in 2008, will include 24 fulltime reporters and editors, the largest staff in American journalism devoted solely to investigative reporting. ProPublica will be supported entirely by philanthropy and will provide the articles it produces, free of charge, both through its own Web site and to leading news organizations selected with an eye toward maximizing the impact of each article.

Commenting on the new organization Mr. Steiger said, "ProPublica will focus exclusively on journalism that shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them. We will be non-partisan and non-ideological, adhering to the strictest standards of journalistic impartiality and fairness." He continued, "We will look hard at the critical functions of business and of government, the two biggest centers of power. But we will also focus on such institutions as unions, universities, hospitals, foundations and the media when they appear to be exploiting or oppressing those weaker than they, or when there is evidence that they are abusing the public trust."

Support for ProPublica is being provided by the Sandler Foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies, the JEHT Foundation, and The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Herbert Sandler, co-founder with his wife Marion Sandler of Golden West Financial Corporation, will serve as Chairman of ProPublica.

ProPublica's Board of Directors is currently in formation. In addition to Mr. Sandler and Mr. Steiger, it will include Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and the Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University; Alberto Ibargüen, the president & CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; former U.S. Rep. James A. Leach, the director of Harvard's Institute of Politics; and Rebecca Rimel, the president & CEO of The Pew Charitable Trusts. ProPublica will also have an Advisory Board of leaders with experience in journalism and related fields.

Speaking on behalf of the Board of Directors, Mr. Sandler said, "We're delighted that Paul Steiger will be leading this important new enterprise--a newsroom devoted entirely to the creation of journalism in the public interest." The Sandler Foundation has made a multi-year commitment to help fund ProPublica.

Ms. Rimel said, "I am very pleased to be joining the Board of ProPublica. This innovative new platform holds out the promise of creating more quality journalism of just the sort our society needs. Perhaps ultimately even more important, ProPublica may help lead the way to crafting new approaches addressing the market failure that seems to be taking hold in some segments of publishing, and that threatens a real loss to the health of our democracy."

The annual operating budget of ProPublica is projected at $10 million, with roughly two-thirds of all costs being devoted to news. (This compares with, for instance, leading newspapers today, where news makes up just 15% of total expense.) The organization will begin publishing in early 2008, when Mr. Steiger's retirement from The Wall Street Journal becomes effective. Meanwhile, Richard J. Tofel, who will be general manager of the new venture, reporting to Mr. Steiger, is overseeing the start-up of ProPublica.

Mr. Steiger noted that, "The creation of ProPublica comes at a difficult moment in American publishing. The number and variety of publishing platforms are exploding in the Internet age. But very few of these new entities are engaged in original, in-depth reporting. In short, sources of opinion are proliferating, but sources of facts on which those opinions are based are shrinking.

"Investigative journalism, in particular, is at risk," he added. "Many news organizations have increasingly come to see investigative journalism as a luxury that can be put aside in tough economic times. A 2005 survey by Arizona State University of the 100 largest U.S. daily newspapers showed that 37% had no full-time investigative reporters, a majority had two or fewer such reporters, and only 10% had four or more. Television networks and national magazines have similarly been shedding or shrinking investigative units. Many are also having to reduce, for budget reasons, the amount of time staffers not formally assigned to investigative reporting are able to devote to such work."

For more information on ProPublica, go to http://ProPublica.org

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