NEW YORK — There are many great allies in the fight against global poverty, and ProPublica—an independent, nonprofit newsroom—is one of them. Joining the ranks of UNICEF, the American Red Cross and the International Rescue Committee, ProPublica, too, is guided by a simple and lofty goal: to contribute to the betterment of humanity. The core of the newsroom’s mission is to use “the moral force of investigative journalism to spur reform through the sustained spotlighting of wrongdoing.” The newsroom has been called a “national asset,” and is making waves in the new age of journalism.
While aid directed at impoverished communities worldwide often brings to mind images of troops of volunteers, mobile clinics and emergency food, water and hygiene supplies, ProPublica’s mission to publish high-quality, accurate and in-depth investigative journalism online in the public interest is equally important.
“We address one of the occasional past failings of investigative journalism by being persistent, by shining a light on inappropriate practices, by holding them up to public opprobrium and by continuing to do so until change comes about,” states the newsroom.
Paul Steiger, former managing editor of the Wall Street Journal, founded ProPublica in October 2007. It is staffed by nearly 40 working journalists and is headquartered in New York City. Today, Stephen Engelberg, former managing editor for The Oregonian and former investigative editor for the New York Times, and Richard Tofel, former assistant publisher of the Wall Street Journal, run the news organization. Though publishing only began in 2008, ProPublica was awarded the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Investigative Reporting. It was also the recipient of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in National Reporting.
How does a small team of earnest journalists access such extensive audiences and initiative social change? It’s simple: every writer digs deep into the “unsavory practices” that lie within education, government, unions, politics, foundations and businesses, among other institutions and sectors. ProPublica initiates and provokes discussions, bringing to the surface issues that are in dire need of increased public attention, with the hope of stimulating reform. The newsroom has published articles on the Red Cross’ finances, and the ways in which five-star hotels may help stimulate the economy in impoverished regions worldwide, among countless others topics that relate to the larger picture of global poverty.
Many of ProPublica’s stories are offered exclusively to select traditional news organizations for publication. The newsroom has acquired over 104 publishing partners since its inception, and that number is growing. Spending more than 85 cents out of every dollar on news—where most traditional print organizations spend only 15 cents of each dollar to news—ProPublica relies on philanthropic donations as its primary source of income, in addition to advertising revenue. The Sandler Foundation has played a key role in supporting ProPublica, making a major, multi-year commitment at the newsroom’s launch.
ProPublica, which was featured in Fortune’s “100 Great Things About America” is worth following, if not for the depth and breadth of its rich news coverage, but for the fresh perspective it lends readers. Want to get involved? Donate to the newsroom, listen to a podcast, sign up for Reporting Network updates or simply join the conversation at www.propublica.org.
– Elizabeth Nutt