NY Times Launches Philanthropy Initiative to Get Outside Funding for Journalism

A new project for the Gray Lady. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

The New York Times is launching a philanthropic arm that will allow the paper to seek outside support for its journalism. Executive Editor Dean Baquet and Managing Editor Joe Kahn announced the Gray Lady’s new direction in a note to staff this morning.

Deputy Managing Editor Janet Elder will lead the initiative, which will also likely partner with student journalists and local news teams.

Baquet and Kahn said the new project came because several unnamed philanthropies and universities have offered to fund the Times‘ journalism in the past year.

“Invariably, they say we are one of the few institutions with the independence and ambition to take on the largest subjects here and abroad,” the letter reads.

The Times has worked with outside money before, most notably on “Fractured Lands,” a magazine feature on the post-Arab Spring Middle East that was partially funded by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Elder’s job will be to figure out what other newsroom activities would benefit from philanthropic support. She will also determine what kind of nonprofit funding would work best for the Times and deal with legal and ethical questions.

In the end, her work will help the paper “build an operation that will allow the Times to seek philanthropic funding for ambitious journalism,” the letter reads.

The Times, which announced drastic buyouts earlier this summer, is not the only media organization turning to philanthropy. The Guardian announced this week that it’s establishing a nonprofit venture that will focus on getting financial help for its journalism from foundations and think tanks.

Digital media companies have also embraced this model. The Texas Tribune launched in 2009 with $4 million in private contributions and seed funding. Today, the member-supported site has the largest statehouse news bureau in the United States, and it also offers wall-to-wall coverage of events like Hurricane Harvey.

While Baquet and Kahn didn’t mention these outlets by name, they expressed hope that the Times‘ nonprofit venture would have a similar impact.

“This is one of the most compelling developments in our business…a significant and exciting opportunity for The New York Times,” they wrote. “We are setting our sights high.”