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Krieg Barrie

Soros' vision for journalism

A leftist billionaire understands the culture-shaping power of journalism. What about you?

Issue: "A second chance," Nov. 20, 2010

George Soros gets it.

The billionaire investor and bankroller of left-wing political causes like MoveOn.org backed off politics this election cycle ("I don't believe in standing in the way of an avalanche") and spent his dollars more strategically: to promote journalism. Last month, Soros announced a $1.8 million seed-money grant for National Public Radio's "Impact of Government" project. It is meant to hire 100 journalists-two per state, in all 50 states-specifically to report on how the decisions of government play out over time. Aside from Soros' big-government worldview, this is an otherwise good idea. Most reporting tends to focus on the political dealmaking that leads to a bill's passage, but then neglects to look at its effects.

The project launches in March 2011 in eight states. Meantime, NPR will seek $17 million to expand to the other 42 states, then $18 million to $19 million a year to sustain it. A New York Times report said NPR seeks "to counter some of the cutbacks in profit-making journalism."

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Hmm. Where have you read that before? Over the last couple of years, I've used this space to report on the economic woes of journalism and the industry-wide trend to preserve profits by cutting newsgathering resources. (See "Needed: WORLD Movers," Nov. 21, 2009, and "Passion meets opportunity," Nov. 29, 2008.) I've also urged visionary readers to get involved financially as nonprofits like WORLD (or unlike WORLD, in the case of NPR) raise money, hire reporters, and take advantage of the opportunity provided by the elite-media retreat. This is why I say Soros gets it. What about you?

Seriously, WORLD's success rests largely upon you. Dear reader, you are the reason WORLD has not been swept away by the economics that prompted the Washington Post Co. this summer to unload Newsweek for a dollar to an investor willing to assume its debts. Unlike such advertiser-dependent media elites who earn 80 percent of revenues from advertisers, WORLD relies on readers to that same extent. As a subscriber, gift-subscription giver, or a WORLD Mover charitable donor, you make it possible for us even to contemplate a future.

So I renew the invitation: Please help shape this future by becoming a WORLD Mover. We need 10,000 WORLD Movers' monthly or annual gifts to fund the growth of Christian worldview journalism. What Soros regards as seed money is more than our entire editorial budget. In contrast to his $1.8 million/16 reporter plan, WORLD spends less than that for a staff of 25. Unlike Soros and NPR, we don't need $110K-$190K a year to attract a reporter. We do a lot for a little.

Last year, more than 3,000 of you answered the WORLD Mover call and that was a great encouragement. It inspired enough confidence in our future that I can announce today that Dr. Marvin Olasky, WORLD's editor in chief, has agreed to put aside his substantial interest in college academics and to focus all his energies on WORLD, to train and lead the journalists who will staff our growing news organization. This is huge. When one of our board members heard this great news about Marvin, she remarked that it was one of the most encouraging things she'd heard during her tenure on the board.

It is hard to exaggerate the significance of Marvin's decision. It also means, though, that we must find the rest of that 10,000-strong support base of WORLD Movers-and soon. If Marvin's stepping away as provost of The King's College to focus exclusively on WORLD's future thrills you half as much as it does me, I would encourage you prayerfully to consider today supporting this work financially. We are a 501(c) (3) nonprofit publishing ministry, so contributions to WORLD are tax-deductible.

The purpose of WORLD Movers is strictly to fund news-reporting growth. Already, because of gifts from readers like you, we've begun to expand, and today we produce as much digital content in two weeks' time as we publish in every biweekly edition of the magazine. But there's so much more to do: new digital platforms to build, young reporters to train, important stories to cover.

If journalism is to have a future, particularly our brand of journalism, it will be a journalism that is close to the people, supported by the people. Will you be part of this future? The need is urgent and the opportunity is now. I'd love to hear from you. Please click here to securely donate online or for information on how to make a contribution by mail.
Email Nick Eicher

Nick Eicher
Nick Eicher

Nick lives in St. Louis, loves the Blues (as in the NHL), is executive producer of WORLD Radio, and co-hosts WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickEicher.

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