PHILADELPHIA (CBS/AP) — The owner of The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News and their website has announced he has donated the news organizations to a newly created nonprofit institute.
H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest said in statement early Tuesday that he has given $20 million to help endow the Institute for Journalism in New Media.
“My goal is to ensure that the journalism traditionally provided by the printed newspapers is given a new life and prolonged, while new media formats for its distribution are being developed,” Lenfest said.
He added that the news organizations will remain committed to producing “independent public service journalism and investigative reporting that positively impacts the community, while also creating innovative multimedia content.”
Readers will not see any immediate changes and the company’s contracts with its labor unions will remain in force, he said.
“I think it’s a perfect combination where charitable organizations, even the public, they could have memberships and so-forth and give to the Institute as a tax-free organization,” said Lenfest.
Anyone can donate to the Institute, however, an Editorial Board of Directors will have the final say on who may and may not contribute, Lenfest says any individual or group that tries to push an agenda will be rejected.
Late last year, Philadelphia Media Network announced a consolidation of its newsrooms in a cost-cutting move following a decade of cutbacks and management upheaval. The move to a single newsroom was expected to save $5 million to $6 million annually.
The company also laid off 46 journalists early last month. It continues to publish two newspapers.
Lenfest, who bought the news company for $88 million in May 2014 at auction, said it “must meet our readers where they are — and where they are going in the future — as well as develop fresh ways in which advertisers can reach these engaged daily readers in print and online.”
It is envisioned that corporations and other benefactors could make donations to the institute to support specific journalism projects and reporting efforts, in ways similar to how professors’ chairs at universities are endowed.
Lenfest said Philadelphia Media Network will remain a self-governing, for-profit company, owned by the institute and run by the news organizations’ current management team and board of directors.
It would join a small number of newspaper operations run by nonprofits or trusts, such as the Tampa Bay Times in St. Petersburg, Florida, a for-profit operation owned by the Poynter Institute, and The Day, a New London, Connecticut-based newspaper, which is held in a public trust.
Philadelphia Media Network publisher and CEO Terry Egger said Lenfest’s announcement is “an outstanding development for our news organizations and for the evolution of print and digital journalism in the United States.”
“Thanks to Gerry’s bold vision for the future” he said, “we will not only be able to maintain our fierce journalistic independence, but we will also now be able to receive funding from new philanthropic revenue streams in support of public interest reporting that benefits the community.”
KYW’s Paul Kurtz contributed to this report.
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