ProPublica president Richard Tofel has known Craigslist founder Craig Newmark for nine years, almost the entire length of ProPublica’s existence. And when in the wake of the elections Newmark began setting his foundation’s eye, and money, on news organizations, ProPublica engaged in conversations with Newmark that have led up to yesterday’s announcement of a $1 million grant from the Craig Newmark Foundation for the investigative news outlet.
The grant is unrestricted, able to be applied toward anything ProPublica wishes to pursue, and new hires will definitely be a major part of the grant’s use. “We’ve been adding staff. We are in the process of adding more and there will be yet more ahead. It’s almost all going to be reporters and editors at this point,” Tofel told Fishbowl. In recent months, ProPublica has added a number of positions, including three reporters covering climate change/the environment and one covering aging issues. Tofel says the organization is in the process of determining what coverage areas they will be hiring for in the near future.
ProPublica has been part of a larger story of news organizations benefitting from a post-election enthusiasm for deep reporting, and Newmark’s donation is a part of that movement, with the election giving his newsroom donations a greater urgency. “I’ve been supporting and talking about the need for trustworthy journalism for years,” he said in a statement. “But now there’s a new normal in journalism. It’s a media environment where really nasty gossip, lies and deception have the business advantage, and where a lot of traditional news organizations are on the ropes. So we need to redouble our efforts to support the good guys.”
At the end of last year, Poynter also found itself on the receiving end of Newmark’s enthusiasm for serious journalism. The $1 million the organization received is going toward establishing and funding a faculty chair in journalism ethics.