Promises by foundations not to interfere and assertions of editorial independence by nonprofit ventures mean little. Only a strong sense of journalistic vocation can trump the otherwise compelling cost/benefit logic of grantsmanship. And the only meaningful expression of such clarity of purpose is the work itself. If we are prepared to err in the direction of biting the hand that feeds, perhaps journalism and philanthropy will co-evolve in ways that benefit both, yielding forms of patronage that effectively underwrite the First Amendment. Paradoxically, this is among the ways the conditions that imperil journalism also create an opportunity to recover its best traditions.


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Jamie Kalven is the editor of A Worthy Tradition: Freedom of Speech in America by Harry Kalven Jr., and the author of Working With Available Light: A Family’s World After Violence. He has reported extensively on public housing and on police abuse in Chicago.