ProPublica’s annual report says it runs on a yearly budget of about $10 million, and the funds seem to come mostly from year-to-year donations. Are there plans to build an endowment to ensure that the organization will be more than a passing trend subject to the whims and fortunes of annual donors?
With that in mind, how about a sidebar or another story exploring why, in light of ProPublica’s success in supplementing the dwindling resources and resolve of for-profit news organizations to do ProPublica’s high-octane reporting, someone like Steiger couldn’t scale this model dramatically. Why not try to go to 20 or 30 billionaires and remind them that democracy, good government and free markets depend on the honest-broker information that good journalism provides and get them to endow an average of $1 billion each to create a $20 billion “Democracy Through Journalism” Fund? Assuming a 5 percent annual return, that would allow for a billion dollars a year - 100 times what ProPublica now spends - and put 3,000 to 4,000 serious journalists on beats across the country. Could that work?
(Conflict note: ProPublica, uses Press+, the publishing e-commerce system that I co-founded and of which I am co-CEO, to solicit donations on its website.)
2. Defanging Ryan:
This important story by Maggie Haberman, Jonathan Martin, and Jake Sherman published in Politico over the weekend is the best of many raising questions about Paul Ryan’s role in the Romney campaign. Rather than Ryan becoming the guy who offers conservative policy specifics to supplement Mitt Romney’s more general stump speech appeals, “the congressman’s supporters fear just the opposite has happened The congressman’s role now is a dutiful No. 2, tossing out attack lines [M]any Republicans believe the solution is not more Mitt, but more Ryan.”
Well, I hope some campaign reporter is not going to make me wait for “Game Change II” or the next installment of the Politico ebook series about the campaign to take me inside and tell me who in the Romney campaign (or was it Romney himself?) had what conversations with Ryan before (or was it after?) he was chosen and told him he was going to have to lose all that wonky specificity because specifics were not the campaign’s strategy.
This is not only a matter of curiosity - of wanting to be a fly on the wall during what could have been some dramatic conversations. Knowing what happened here will tell us a lot about Ryan. There’s been much written and said by Ryan’s critics that what he epitomizes more than ideological determination is a Washington-style careerism that saw him arrive at the Capitol as an intern and make all the right moves and connections to become a leader of the congressional Republicans. How he reacted if he was told before he was chosen that he would have to change his act to get the number two spot is likely to shed some light on that, as would how he handled it, and continues to handle it, if he was only given those orders after he was chosen.