The column focuses on the Center for Public Integrity, founded 20 years ago by Chuck Lewis as an answer to what he saw as the heavy, if often indirect, influence of advertisers on news judgment. Lewis' solution: Get funding from foundations that could appreciate the social value of the center's investigative work.
Lewis deserves an enormous amount of credit for pioneering this model. But as Kurtz's column implies, the foundation-only model no longer is sufficient. The column documents the center's post-Lewis financial difficulties (he now runs a reporting workshop at American University) and the steps that new leadership is taking to develop new revenues sources such as selling e-books.
Deep, deep into the column, Kurtz articulates the big question facing the nonprofits that do journalism: Can they be self-sustaining when the foundation money runs out? He writes:
The larger issue is whether such not-for-profit outfits can become self-sustaining, or will forever be dependent on foundations and wealthy donors. If those checks stop coming, these operations could be crippled.