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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Is Philanthropy Print Journalism's Last Hope? | Peter Osnos, The Atlantic

The Ford Foundation recently pledged $1.04 million to Los Angeles' struggling daily. We might be looking at the future of newspapers.

Peter Osnos, journalist turned book editor/publisher, begins his article:
It was startling to read last week that the Ford Foundation was awarding a two-year grant of $1.04 million to the Los Angeles Times for the hiring of reporters. The money will be used for coverage of immigration issues, including the Korean and Vietnamese communities, the California prison system, and the border region with Mexico, and to staff a bureau in Brazil.
But here's what startled Osnos (emphasis added):
Ford has long been a supporter of journalism, with an emphasis on public broadcasting and nonprofit enterprises. But this grant represents a different approach: support for a newspaper currently in bankruptcy that has endured years of cutbacks in its resources and revenues. ...
And he notes:
"Conversations" are under way with other news organizations -- the implication being newspapers that share the problems of the Los Angeles Times. ...
[G]iven the realities of our times, it seems reasonable to accept a gift, as long as it is not encumbered with requirements for advocacy or any other restrictions that would pose a serious conflict of interest for a self-respecting news organization. ...
Osnos concludes:
The Ford grant, even at a million dollars, is a small contribution to editorial excellence, but if it turns out to be part of a larger trend toward supporting newspapers as they move increasingly towards digital delivery, then the prospects for traditional news could take a turn for the better.

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