February 9, 2017

Bleak about the future of journalism? Here are some encouraging statistics:

  • In 2015, ProPublica ended the year with $450,000 in small donations (contributions less than $10,000 that weren’t individually solicited).
  • In 2016, that amount was $2.9 million.
  • So far this year, that number is already more than $600,000.
  • ProPublica received $4,500 from monthly recurring donations in the month of October.
  • By January, that number had increased to $104,000.

Though much of the local and regional press is taking a financial beating, ProPublica is flush with cash from public-spirited contributors looking to finance hard-hitting journalism.

Since John Oliver gave the nonprofit investigative newsroom outlet a shoutout on “Last Week Tonight” last year, they’ve seen one-time and monthly recurring donations skyrocket. Now, flush with cash, they’re staffing up to bring the newsroom’s resources to bear on the Trump White House.

“This is an enormous story,” said Richard Tofel, ProPublica’s president. “And it was an enormous story eight years ago, when there was a new administration.”

This year, ProPublica is planning to add somewhere between 15 and 25 journalists to its newsrooms in New York and Illinois. The total news staff will grow from 45 to between 60 or 70 journalists. Ten or 12 of those jobs will be for ProPublica Illinois, its new statewide venture in Chicago.

Then, they’ll do a second round of additions to the newsroom in New York — likely editing and writing jobs — whose beats haven’t yet been determined, Tofel said.

ProPublica is also growing its business staff to deal with the increased contributions (“which are wonderful challenges to have,” Tofel adds). The staff will go from nine to 13 and include somebody who manages the online donations.

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The hires are part of a broader remaking of ProPublica’s newsroom, which reoriented itself to cover the Trump administration after the election. They’ve added beats on Trump’s business conflicts, workers rights and White supremacy, and there are more to follow.

“The news environment has clearly changed a great deal since the election,” Tofel said. “I think almost half of the reporting staff had their beats changed since election day.”

At the end of January, ProPublica published its list of beats and promised to continue serving up “hard-hitting, rigorous journalism.”

“There are a zillion stories here,” Tofel said. “And as long as you can find good, individual stories, you can make a contribution.”

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.
Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

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