Huffingtonpost to fund investigative journalism

November 18, 2008

Just got back from a panel discussion at Michael’s restaurant in Manhattan where Huffingtonpost founder Arianna Huffington said that the news and commentary website is going to raise money to fund investigative journalism projects.

I asked her for more details afterward. She said there wouldn’t be any for another three months or so. That leaves me with precious little more to deliver than context. Her plan comes as the news business itself faces dire code-orange-style threat levels — many U.S. newspaper publishers are mired in debt and their ad sales are thinning, making it hard to see how they will soldier on. Not only that, investors are fleeing from them like the proverbial rats from a sinking ship and their equity value is hitting the low single digits.

For all media companies, whether or not they’re in the hands of investors, the ad revenue decline is hitting them hard, and all sorts of publications are axing staff. It leaves many media talking heads and bloggers wondering whether news will survive into the 21st century, at least in the way we know it.

Huffington’s website is small compared with big professional publishers, but it looks like she’s latching on to a growing trend. Mark Cuban, who was charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission with insider trading on Monday, is financing several investigative journalism ventures, including former CBS newsman Dan Rather’s reports. Two other projects that he has funded, sharesleuth.com and bailoutsleuth.com, seek to expose financial wrongdoings as well as poorly thought out ways to spend Wall Street bailout money amid the financial crisis. Both are trying to tackle big projects that it is becoming increasingly hard to pay for at many traditional media outlets.

There also is ProPublica.org, of course, the privately funded investigative journalism operation that’s helmed by former Wall Street Journal Managing Editor Paul Steiger.

As for Huffington, there is nothing else to report, but for now — Investigate this space.

(Photo: Reuters)

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