As a review, the report found that a collective $128 million had been raised since 2005 for 117 projects excluding public broadcasting programs, the underwriting of documentaries, journalism training and student news services.
A major criticism of the nonprofit model is that there will never be enough money to go around to make a dent in the need for enterprise and investigative journalism being left by traditional (newspaper) media. And some people said the J-Lab report only underscored that problem because it found that $30 million of the $128 million went from the Sandler foundation to ProPublica.
I won't argue either point in this space. But I thought it would be interesting to crunch the numbers in the J-Lab database. Here's what I found out: Indeed, nearly half the money counted (about $63 million) went to three news sources: ProPublica and two established outfits, Center for Public Integrity and New America Media/Pacific News Service.
More telling, perhaps, is that the average of all grants listed in the database is about $453,000, but the median is $80,000. That tells me two things: 1) The Big Three indeed are racking up the lion's share of grant money. 2) But there are lots of relatively small (less than $100,000) grants out there going funding a lot of people's experiments, hopes and dreams.
J-Lab's executive director, Jan Schaffer, said her group discussed whether to include the big ones. But they decided to go ahead because they wanted to capture the fact that investigative startups have begun commanding big donations. In an email, she writes:
We debated whether or not to include the likes of the big investigative grants, like to Pro Publica or Center for Public Integrity. But we realized that if we didn’t include them, we’d miss out on showing how investigative projects overall account for something like $65 million of this pool of money. Fresh money went into 5-6 investigative startups that have launched fairly recently.
Another slice of the database showed that some smaller outfits have succeeded in diversifying their donor base - a key to long-term survival. While the big names still lead in number of donors, some lesser known names - Health News Florida, for example - crack the top 10.
Here's a look at the top 10 fundraisers as measured by J-Lab:
Organization - Grants Since 2005
Center for Public Integrity $14,942,479
New America Media/Pacific News Svc $13,922,091
Ctr for Investigative Rept’g $7,249,000
Schuster Institute for Investigative Journ $5,000,000
Calif. Ctr for HC Journalism $3,700,000
Chicago Matters $3,660,000
California Healthline $2,500,000
And here are the top 10 in terms of donors:
Organization - Number of Grants
Center for Public Integrity 42
Ctr for Investigative Rept’g 40
New America Media/Pacific News Svc 34
Women’s eNews 18
Pulitzer Ctr on Crisis Reporting 8
New York Cmty Media Alliance 8
Health News Florida 8
Gotham Gazette 7
Voice of San Diego 6