You probably can’t comment specifically on donors or grant requests, but I wonder if you have any broader thoughts about the challenges and opportunities for funding factchecking, which has been pieced together in unusual ways via a for-profit newspaper (The Washington Post), a newspaper owned by a nonprofit (Politifact/Tampa Bay Times), and an academic institution (Factcheck.org, which is part of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania). The fact that you’ve attracted support from individual donors with a finance background like Reid and Frischling is an intriguing development. Do you think there more people out there who will be willing to provide the resources necessary to scale up factchecking? Obviously it’s a difficult time to raise funds for any media project.
I think we are seeing a change across the industry. More people in a position to help are doing so as they watch the existing news business going through an extremely difficult transition. Just over the last few months we’ve seen Jeff Bezos buy The Washington Post and now the founder of eBay, Pierre Omidyar, is starting a new media operation. (Editor’s note: Omidyar’s philanthropic foundation provides major support for CJR’s United States Project.)
I’m confident that regardless of what happens to newspapers there will still be a space for robust, serious journalism. In the meetings we’ve had so far with potential donors we’ve seen real enthusiasm for factchecking and frustration with the current state of affairs. We will be formed as a nonprofit organization so we aren’t trying to sell a business plan predicated on the ability to make money, but simply on the need to do this work and do it right. So I’m optimistic that we will be in a position to launch next year.
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