August 24, 2012

Center awarded major grant, selected for business program

The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism is celebrating two major developments — the largest grant in its history and selection for a national training program aimed at strengthening its business operations.

The $350,000 grant is from one of the Center’s longtime donors, the Open Society Foundations.

The grant to the nonprofit and nonpartisan Center is from OSF’s Transparency Fund, which supports efforts to increase government transparency and accountability at the state and federal levels.

The grant provides the Center $175,000 per year year in 2012 and 2013.

The New York City-based foundations have supported the Center since its 2009 launch with grants ranging from $50,000 to $85,000 per year.

LISTEN: WTDY’s Amy Barrilleaux interviews Center’s Andy Hall about investigative reporting and the Center’s major new grant.

“The generous support of Open Society is deeply appreciated and ensures that the Center continues its much needed watchdog role in Wisconsin,” said Brant Houston, the Center’s board president and Knight chair in investigative reporting at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The Community Journalism Executive Training program is a project of the Investigative News Network in association with the Knight Digital Media Center at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. It is made possible by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The intensive program is being offered to 34 organizations from within the Investigative News Network and Block by Block publisher communities.

“We are excited about this opportunity to learn from business experts and mentors,” said Andy Hall, the Center’s founder and executive director, who will participate in the program. “This will help increase the financial sustainability of the Center’s efforts to dig into important issues facing Wisconsin.”

Since its launch three years ago, the award-winning Center (www.WisconsinWatch.org) has produced more than 75 major reports and 50 columns focusing upon government integrity, with a special emphasis on the role of money in politics and policymaking, and quality of life issues including the environment, education and health. Its reports have been used by more than 200 news organizations worldwide and have reached an estimated audience of more than 18 million people.

Four national groups — Open Society Foundations, Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation in Oklahoma City, Ford Foundation in New York City and Robert R. McCormick Foundation in Chicago —  are the Center’s major funders.

The Center, like dozens of other nonprofit news organizations that have sprung up in recent years, is seeking to expand and diversify its financial support as nonprofit newsrooms increasingly fill gaps created by the decline of for-profit news organizations.

As a matter of policy, the Center voluntarily discloses the identity of all of its financial supporters to protect the integrity of its journalism.

The Center has generated increasing amounts of revenue through earned income — receiving payment for production of investigative reports — and donations from local foundations, news organizations and individuals, about four dozen in all. The Center’s annual budget for 2012 is $397,000.

The Center collaborates with Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, other news media and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where it is housed.

The journalism school and Center attained national acclaim for their collaboration in July, as the Associated Press Media Editors named them winners of its first Innovator of the Year for College Students award.

The Center has received nine Milwaukee Press Club Awards for its work, including first place for best local news or feature website in 2012, and an honorable mention in Investigative Reporters and Editors’ awards in the student category.

The Center welcomes support from the public. Information on how to support the Center is available here or by emailing Andy Hall, executive director, at ahall@wisconsinwatch.org.

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