Robert J. Ross, Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation

TITLE: President and CEO

FUNDING AREAS: Journalism, new media, access to media

CONTACT: Visit PeopleFinder for email and phone number (paid subscribers only)

IP TAKE: Ross has a long history with the Foundation and seems to like journalism projects with an education spin.

PROFILE: In addition to his position as President, CEO, and member of the Board of Directors of the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, Robert J. Ross (who goes by Bob) is also President, CEO, and member of the Board of Directors of the Inasmuch Foundation. These two Oklahoma City-based institutions are two of the state's largest private foundations, both founded by Edith Kinney Gaylord in 1982, the daughter Edward K. Gaylord, noted editor and publisher of The Oklahoman and The Oklahoma City Times.

Where the Inasmuch Foundation is focused primarily on promoting education, health and human services, cultural organizations, the arts, historic preservation and environmental concerns, the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation (EEJF) was founded to support "local and national efforts to improve the quality of journalism practices among various media." EEJF funnels millions of dollars a year to media organizations and journalism schools around the country focused primarily on the areas of investigative reporting, youth education, professional development, and other "special opportunities."

Ross' father, William J. Ross, has been with the foundation since it was established, and Ross-younger is now succeeding him in his current post. Ross was an associate at the Oklahoma City law firm McAfee & Taft prior to joining the foundations in 2003, and before that was an undergraduate student who received his bachelor's in business administration from Washington & Lee Univerity, then a law student who received his J.D. from the University of Oklahoma. 

Ross greatly enjoys the work he does with EEJF, but in an interview, he also explains the struggle of being approached by so many institutions and individuals asking for support. "We have to say no a lot. It’s hard, especially with being able to support so many different areas. You have to have a focus." He explains that he relies on his legal background to analyze proposals, but is always open to listening to new ways of approaching things. "It’s easy to operate in a vacuum and think you have the answers to everything. But you don’t. I look for community buy-in for all of our projects and for people to say, 'This is important and here's why.'"

EEJF grants typically range from $20,000 to upwards of $500,000 in their four main areas of interest. In 2008 they underwent a strategic planning process to "redefine areas of interest in order to increase [their] impact in grant-making." Since then they have increased their impact in the areas of journalism and the media by giving a surprising amount of money to various non-profit organizations and educational institutions around the country that may not have come otherwise.

A recent found of the foundation's grants totaled about $2.8 million and was distributed to 25 different journalism organizations nationwide. At the time of the announcement, Ross reiterated the aim of the gifts: “New models are necessary to continue the important work of investigative journalism in the public interest. We are pleased to partner with the organizations announced today as they work to stimulate positive change through innovative models.”

One of the ways these gifts are stimulating positive change is in the area of new media and design. For example, a grant of $25,000 went to the Society for News Design Foundation for "workshops in iPad and app development strategies for professional journalists, students and professors at universities and news organizations across the country." This new area of focus should continue to be an interesting one in the years ahead.

Ross also serves on the board of directors for Oklahoma City Public Schools Foundation, Oklahoma Health Center Foundation, St. Anthony Hospital Foundation, and Sunbeam Family Services. And if past history is any indication, Ross won't be leaving his post at Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation any time soon.