This tweaks the model for how to pay for big-city newspaper journalism: a non-profit foundation paying a profit-making public company. The Los Angeles Times, still one of the biggest newspapers in the country and by far the most potent in California, has accepted a $1 million grant to hire new reporters on selected beats: "immigration and ethnic communities in Southern California, the California prison system, the Southwest border region and one of the most important international stories in our region, Brazil." Here's the "Dear Comrades" memo from editor Davan Maharaj.
From: Davan Maharaj
Date: Thu, 17 May 2012 12:25:26 -0700
Subject: Ford Foundation Grant to The Los Angeles Times
In these tough economic times, we don’t get to crow very often about significant additions to our staff, so please excuse my enthusiasm over a piece of great news.
The Los Angeles Times has been awarded a $1.04-million, two-year Ford
Foundation grant to support additional reporters in the newsroom. The new
staff members will focus on specific beats: immigration and ethnic
communities in Southern California, the California prison system, the
Southwest border region and one of the most important international stories
in our region, Brazil. These are vital coverage areas that have been
affected by our need to make tough choices in the past decade. Although the
grant is for two years, we intend to continue with these beats beyond that
period. We will immediately start our search for reporters.
The grant comes with no strings attached. We have complete control over
editorial content and are free to pursue whatever stories we deem
The grant is part of a new initiative by the Ford Foundation to increase
coverage of issues involving inequality, injustice and disparity. Although
the foundation has supported research and reporting projects in the past,
this grant is among its first that directly supports a private media
organization. To avoid any conflict of interest, the money will be paid from
a portfolio separate from the foundation’s other grant programs.
It’s a wonderful opportunity. Our journalism--and our readers--will be
better for it.
* Update: A Times story by media reporter James Rainey says the grant will finance five reporters. He also says the local reporters will focus on "the Vietnamese, Korean and other immigrant communities."