January 9, 2017

Courtney Radsch was just sitting down to watch the Golden Globes when Meryl Streep came on.

Radsch, a fan of Streep’s, sat down to watch the awards show with her husband and heard the Academy Award-winning actress make an unexpected plug for the Committee to Protect Journalists.

“That was pretty exciting,” said Radsch, advocacy director at CPJ. “I don’t think any of us were expecting such a ringing endorsement for our work and the right of journalists to report the news, which is our mission.”

Quickly, Radsch opened up her laptop and began logging into the committee’s social media accounts. She instant messaged her colleagues, who were equally surprised and determined to seize the moment:

Streep’s plug helped. As of Monday afternoon, the committee has received about 1,000 donations totaling more than $80,000. On a normal Sunday night, Radsch said, the committee receives about a handful.

The Committee to Protect Journalists doesn’t yet have a final tally from Sunday night, Radsch said. But a cursory look shows that the contributions were fairly modest.

“Most of them were small, individual donations coming from people who appear to have been inspired by her speech,” Radsch said.

Although Streep’s speech was made in the context of Donald Trump’s tumultuous relationship with the media, Radsch noted that there are huge challenges facing journalists abroad. Last year was the worst on record for journalist imprisonment around the world, with Turkey alone jailing 81.

Other news organizations have benefitted from celebrity support. ProPublica, an investigative nonprofit based in New York City, saw a surge in donations after John Oliver suggested his audience contribute to its work.

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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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