Online news site Crosscut's announcement yesterday of a $100,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation surely raised some hopes in the tumultuous world of journalism. Is Bill Gates waking up to the havoc caused by the digital technology he has unleashed? Will his enormously deep-pocketed philanthropy come to the rescue of a profession--and means of informing that the public-- that threatens to disappear? Can the New York Times expect a bailout next?
Can they fit some journalists on their laps?
Don't count on it. "We don't have a specific media strategy," says Greg Shaw, director of advocacy for the foundation's U.S. program. That said, he explains that the foundation is concerned with making sure that the public is informed about the issues that it works on: education especially but also, in the Northwest, homelessness, programs for low-income people and libraries. To that end, the foundation has given donations in the past to NPR and Education Week. Shaw says that while the foundation exerts no editorial control, it handed the grant to Crosscut in the "hope that they will be able to cover those issues." (Less on City Hall, more on the homeless hangouts a couple blocks away, Crosscut!)
So the foundation has left a slight opening for the media to come begging. Other philanthropies are being hit up too. As Rick Anderson reported this morning, P-I alum site InvesigateWest announced a $40,000 grant from Seattle's Bullitt Foundation.