It's Official: Donald Trump is the Best Thing That's Ever Happened to Nonprofit Journalism


Donald Trump's election is the gift that keeps on giving for nonprofit journalism. Literally.

Over the past few months, we've written about the influx of donations to nonprofit journalism that followed the November election. Some of that money has taken the form of small gifts from worried Americans. Some has come from institutional grantmakers like the Knight Foundation. And some has come from the foundations of living donors, like Craig Newmark. 

If you thought that such giving might taper off as Trump's presidency became normalized, think again. 

This week, the Center for Investigative Reporting, the Center for Public Integrity, and ProPublica received their biggest boost yet thanks to $12 million in new grants from First Look Media and Democracy Fund. Both organizations were created by philanthropist and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar (more on him in a second).

For context, this is the biggest gift toward nonprofit journalism since 2007, when Herb and Marion Sandler put up the seed money to start ProPublica. That gift also came at a time when some wealthy donors felt deeply alarmed by a Republican president who had a contentious relationship with the truth. (A Bush aide once reportedly dismissed what he called the "reality-based community.")

The three recipients of the new Omidyar money will receive $3 million each. The funding will ensure they have the "resources they need to meet the reporting challenges of today's political landscape." 

In addition, the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University received $500,000 to "expand accountability reporting collaborations" between students and journalists, and $275,000 went to a collaboration between Professor Jay Rosen at New York University and De Correspondent, to test "new models of community support for investigative reporting."

The grants, the Democracy Fund notes, arrive at a moment when "the role of journalism in our democracy is facing unprecedented challenges."

"Investigative journalists play a crucial role in our political system," said the fund's president, Joe Goldman. "We hope this support extends the reach and depth of a remarkable set of nonprofit newsrooms at a pivotal moment in American history.”

Although the fund—which describes itself as a "bipartisan foundation"—doesn't explicitly mention the "T" word, it's difficult to appraise these challenges stripped of the larger context—specifically, the continued proliferation of "fake news" over the last few months, Trump's unprecedented attacks on the press, and the simmering Russia scandal(s). 

As we've reported, few top philanthropists seem more incensed by all this than Pierre Omidyar, who's been tweeting up a storm of outrage for months. He's also putting his money where his mouth is. In mid-March, the Omidyar Network provided seed funding to the Anti-Defamation League for a center in Silicon Valley that will help digital companies reduce "cyberhate," such as attacks and intimidation on social media.