Ford Foundation Donates $ 1 Million to Expand Times-Picayune and The Advocate Investigative Team | New
The Times-Picayune and The Advocate to Receive a Million Dollar Donation from the Ford Foundation, One of the Nation’s Largest Philanthropic Funds, to Double the Size of Newspaper Investigative Team and Expand Geographic Reach newspaper reports.
The three-year grant will be given to the Greater New Orleans Foundation for its Louisiana Investigative Journalism Fund, developed in partnership with the news agency. This is the largest donation made to date for the effort, unveiled in December 2020.
Contributions from individual donors and foundations have already produced the first hire: longtime political reporter Jeff Adelson will take on a new role as data reporter for the team. The Ford Foundation grant will allow the newspaper to quickly hire two additional reporters and an associate editor.
To date, the newspaper has raised nearly $ 1.4 million from its goal of $ 1.5 million, estimated to cover the cost of the new posts for three years.
The unit is headed by Gordon Russell, investigative editor.
“I am more than delighted that the Ford Foundation has seen fit to help us develop our investigative team,” said Russell. “I have no doubts that this generous donation will allow us to report and write stories that will highlight the problems that plague Louisiana – and maybe even help us solve some of them.”
The unrestricted donation is part of a recent Ford Foundation pledge to donate an additional $ 75 million to nonprofit and advocacy institutions across the Deep South in an effort to advance justice at one point. of historic opportunity.
The effort includes supporting the work of media organizations that are committed to exploring issues of justice, equity and racial equity, among other social goods.
In 2019, The Times-Picayune and The Advocate won a Pulitzer Prize for local reporting for “Tilting the Scales,” a series that analyzed Louisiana’s unusual law allowing non-unanimous jury verdicts in felony cases. The careful investigation, which required reporters to hand-build a database of state courthouse trials, found the law was racist-shaped and continued to have racist effects on people. Black Louisians until the 21st century. This prompted Louisiana voters to change the state’s constitution and in April 2020, the United States Supreme Court, citing the newspaper’s work, ruled non-unanimous juries unconstitutional.
Ford Foundation President Darren Walker, who was born in a charity hospital in Lafayette and raised in East Texas, said growing up in the South taught him “how to make sense of the deepest contradictions of America and humanity “.
“Indeed, I inherited these contradictions and ironies as my own birthright. My hometown, Ames, was the black community; the white town down the road was called ‘Liberty,’ he said. – he writes in a June essay on increasing the foundation’s funding for the Deep South “And yet, I also inherited something beautiful and powerful from the South: a sense of pride and determination that comes from a long legacy of “good problems” a long history that says – inch by inch and acre by acre, ballot by ballot and law by law – we the people can bridge the gap between wickedness of inequality and the power of our values. ”
The Times-Picayune and The Advocate are among many newspapers that have partnered with community foundations to solicit tax-deductible donations from national foundations and civic-minded local donors. The model was born out of the need for traditional news organizations to find ways to maintain their reporting strength in a challenging business environment.
In preparation for its inaugural campaign, newspapers applied and were selected to participate in a six-month fundraising training program sponsored by the Local Media Association and the Google News Initiative.
“Ford’s generous investment in our partnership represents an incredible endorsement of this initiative,” said Andy Kopplin, president and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Foundation. “Doubling the Times Picayune and The Advocate investigative team will serve the people of our region and advance our democracy by dramatically increasing the level of accountability accorded to public and private institutions in our state. “
The number of employees in the newsroom of US newspapers fell 51% between 2008 and 2019, from about 71,000 workers to 35,000, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. -United. These trends have not spared Louisiana.
Investigative reporting, in particular, requires a considerable commitment of time and money. Journalists and editors can spend months on a single story, researching key sources, fighting for public records, and synthesizing complex information.
While the news agency primarily focuses on the three southern Louisiana metropolitan areas it serves – New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Lafayette – it intends to bring its surveillance reporting into more other areas of the state where media coverage has declined.
“Louisiana needs traditional investigative journalism more than any other state, and we are delighted to see that Darren Walker and the Ford Foundation, as well as dozens of local supporters, believe in our vision,” said the editor-in-chief Peter Kovacs. “Thanks to their trust, we are ready to get to work.
The Ford Foundation announced in June 2020 that it had issued a social bond – the first ever carried out by a foundation in the U.S. taxable corporate bond market – so it could double its grants by around $ 550 million per year to more than a billion dollars.
More than $ 22 million of social bond funding goes specifically to organizations in Louisiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee and more than $ 14 million will go to organizations in the areas rural areas, where nonprofits have historically been underfunded despite a rich history of effective organization.
“We are delighted to be working with the Greater New Orleans Foundation and supporting The Times-Picayune and The Advocate,” said Margaret Morton, Director of Creativity and Free Speech at the Ford Foundation. “Journalism is a central pillar of our democracy; it has the power to shape narratives and shed critical light on the most important issues. We look forward to seeing how they continue to build on their rich traditions of insightful and impactful reporting.
Current newspaper owners John and Dahel Georges bought The Advocate in Baton Rouge in 2013, in part to launch a competing newspaper in New Orleans after The Times-Picayune announced massive layoffs and the end of delivery daily.
The New Orleans Advocate clashed with the Times-Picayune until 2019, when the couple bought the Picayune and its website, NOLA.com. In Lafayette, The Acadiana Advocate recently expanded its press team. The three newsrooms are managed by publisher Judi Terzotis and editor-in-chief Peter Kovacs.
The Times-Picayune and The Advocate will retain full editorial control over stories and other content funded by the Louisiana Investigative Journalism Fund. To learn more, visit investigate.nola.com.