It is hard to know which old model is failing fastest: the blue state model of governance, or the legacy media, which might be called the “blue state model of journalism.” We already noted the last few days the declining fortunes of CNN, as well as the news that Newsweek is going to cease print publication in the near future. But a little squib in the Wall Street Journal a couple of days back suggests it’s even worse than we know: the Washington Post has received a $500,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to shore up its shrinking newsroom. The Los Angeles Times already got a $1 million grant from Ford for the same purpose:
The Ford Foundation awarded a $500,000 grant to the Washington Post to expand its government-accountability coverage, the foundation’s second major grant to a for-profit newspaper this year.
The foundation made its first for-profit newspaper grant to the Los Angeles Times this spring—an award of $1 million to enlarge coverage of local immigration and ethnic communities.
The grants come as newspapers continue to struggle with print revenues declining much faster than digital revenues are growing, forcing closures and job cuts throughout the industry. The Washington Post’s newsroom, for instance, has shrunk to around 600 people today from about 1,000 at its peak in 2000.
The one-year grant to the Post, which is owned by Washington Post Co., will fund four reporters to work on “special projects related to money, politics and government,” under the paper’s investigative unit, according to a memo from Post editors.
“The Foundation’s support enables us to build on one of our central missions, and the terms of the grant give us complete independence,” the editors said.
Think this over for a minute: for-profit media companies are becoming charity cases for their core mission. Really? (It is well known that without this highly profitable Kaplan test prep division, the Washington Post company would be losing buckets of money.) That’s not a business model with a future.
Meanwhile, it will be fun to watch Ford and other liberal foundations pour their money down media ratholes. Brings to mind a boozy Washington dinner I was at some years ago, where I was somehow seated next to young lady from the National Center for Responsive Philanthropy—the liberal group that had produced a handwringing report deploring the effectiveness of the relatively tiny conservative foundations, chiefly Bradley, Scaife, and Olin—whose total assets didn’t add up to one month’s worth of Ford Foundation grants. The Left perpetually wonders what secret conspiracy accounts for the superior effectiveness of conservative grantmakers.
I decided to make some mischief. I offered that we conservatives were actually quite delighted with Ted Turner’s $1 billion pledge to the United Nations (since reneged, but never mind). This produced a raised eyebrow of surprise.
Me: “Sure. Because $1 billion spent truly well could do a lot of damage, but giving $1 billion to the U.N. is a pure waste. Might as well just find the nearest rathole for your money.”
Then I added: “Oh, and the Ford Foundation? How many employees do they have on staff? Something like 250? They’d make more effective grants if they fired half the staff. Wouldn’t matter which half.”
So today I’ll add that I’m delighted that the Ford Foundation is stepping in to shore up the nearly bankrupt legacy news media. (I think Dan Rather may be available cheap, by the way.) How long until they start shoring up failing public employee union pension plans? I doubt even Ford and Rockefeller together have enough assets to try that. But I invite them to try.