paidContent - New UK Journalism Investigation Unit Gets $3.3 Million Grant, Google Backing

This story was written by Robert Andrews.
In UK, The Investigations Fund, launched last month by a dozen reporters to find funding for independent journalism, is being absorbed in to a new Bureau for Investigative Journalism, which has just been awarded a 2 million ($3.3 million) grant from the Potter Foundation for the same purpose.

Founded by London’s Centre for Investigative Journalism (CIJ), a charity, the bureau says it wants to be “a counterweight to the decline of traditional media investigations” as money at institutional newspapers, which have been laying off hundreds of journalists, dries up.

It says Google (NSDQ: GOOG) is supporting with “technical expertise software tools and training”, but there’s no financial contribution apparent and this is more likely to mean something along the lines of a Google Apps roll-out or passing on expertise. Google’s UK and Benelux comms director Peter Barron, the ex Newsnight editor, is on board but, as he told a conference last week, “we don’t do content”.

It may be marker of how troubling the future funding of UK commercial journalism appears that we are now seeing one of our first philanthropically-supported journalism initiatives, following the emergence in the US of initiatives like ProPublica as well as philanthropist- and listener-supported NPR. The irony - buoyed by The Telegraph’s MP expenses investigation and The Guardian’s mobile hacking story, investigative and data-driven journalism is more popular than it has been in years.

CIJ director Gavin Macfadyen, in the announcement: “We will experiment with all the techniques available to us from crowdfunding to crowdsourcing and provide content across the media spectrum ... The bureau will offer investigative journalists both proper funding and the support of senior and experienced editors and researchers.” It’s not clear why crowdfunding is necessary, following the 2 million injection.

Nick Davies, who wrote mobile hacking story: The world is full of extraordinary stories which never get written, because the mainstream media no longer have the resources or the will to do the kind of work which they used to. The idea is for reporters to be given the support to go and research good important stories.”

By Robert Andrews