September 1, 2017 Last Updated 9:43 pm

Janet Elder named to lead New York Times effort to attract philanthropic funding to support ‘ambitious journalism’

More media news: The Village Voice layoffs off a majority of its union members one week after ownership had announced that it would be shuttering its weekly print edition

The New York Times today announced a new role for Janet Elder, who has been deputy managing editor since September of last year (see memo below). Elder will lead an efforts to seek philanthropic funding for NYT ambitious journalism projects — known in the old days as going hat in hand to corporations.

As NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik pointed out, it is the approach used by NPR, Slate and other media companies to try to raise the money needed to keep investigative journalism alive. It is also, as I would point out, an indication of the limitations of the paid content strategy being employed at the NYT and other publications.

Elder joined the NYT in 1984 from the Children’s Storefront Foundation in East Harlem where she was the Assistant Director.

Here is the announcement from the NYT:

Janet Elder, one of The Times’s most esteemed newsroom leaders, will build an operation that will allow The Times to seek philanthropic funding for ambitious journalism. Read more in this note from Dean Baquet and Joseph Kahn:

Over the past year a host of philanthropies and universities have come forward asking to help support our journalism. Invariably, they say we are one of the few institutions with the independence and ambition to take on the largest subjects here and abroad.

Janet ElderThis is one of the most compelling developments in our business. Philanthropies across the country are providing money for big investigations, including our own Fractured Lands, the magazine’s epic examination of the post-Arab Spring Middle East, which was funded in part by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

This is a significant and exciting opportunity for The New York Times. So we have asked Janet Elder, one of our most esteemed newsroom leaders, to build an operation that will allow The Times to seek philanthropic funding for ambitious journalism.

We are setting our sights high. Even with the strength of our business and the size of our newsroom, there are opportunities to extend the reach and impact of our journalism with additional support. And we believe we can also work with philanthropies and universities to launch ventures that will help the wider world of journalism, not just The Times.

Janet’s initial task will be to begin a dialogue, both internally and externally, about different types of nonprofit funding and the kinds of newsroom activities that might be supported, as well as addressing legal questions and potential ethical considerations in moving in this direction. She as much as anyone understands our traditions and standards and has a deep knowledge of the operations of the newsroom.

Some easy possibilities come to mind. The New York Times Student Journalism Institute, for example, has nurtured a generation of minority journalists who have enriched our newsroom. Perhaps with additional support the program can help develop talent for the industry as a whole. We also believe that The Times can help with the growing crisis in local news coverage by partnering with other institutions around the country. But mainly, we think there are journalism projects we are eager to pursue that could be more ambitious and have greater impact with outside support.

What can we say about Janet? She has been one of our most visible, important and effective leaders in guiding the newsroom and nurturing careers. She has helped lead us through difficult times. And the newsroom is stronger than ever in no small part because of her efforts.

She has guided us through ethical quandaries, arranged for the rescue of journalists in danger around the world, helped inspire The Upshot, and been a big force in our political coverage for years. She will remain on the Masthead working closely with us.

Of course she is irreplaceable in running News Administration. But there are already some changes in the works that will make Janet’s move to her new job somewhat easier. Carolyn Ryan has led a recruiting effort that is transforming the newsroom. Charlotte Behrendt led us through the last buyout. And we are soon to have Keami Lewis, an HR executive in the newsroom, working closely with us on diversity and career management.

In the coming weeks Janet will be working with Hannah Poferl, in newsroom strategy, and others in creating this new venture.

– Dean and Joe



These are not the best of days at alt-weekly The Village Voice.

The weekly newspaper announced last week that it would shutter its print edition after a more than 61 year run. Now comes word that 13 of 17 union members have been laid off.

“The staff reductions initiated yesterday are part of a larger set of budget cuts aimed at reallocating resources as we reconfigure The Village Voice into a digitally focused company,” the paper said in a statement.

As no non-union members were laid off it appears to be a back door way to lessen the influence of the union, which had just had its contract extended through February. The union was brought in, it should be noted, when Rupert Murdoch bought the weekly in 1977, a year after he had acquired the New York Post. Famed columnist Nat Hentoff is said to have told Murdoch that “you are the most effective labor organizer I’ve ever known about.”

The Voice survived Muedoch, but has been is severe decline since it was acquired by New Times in 2005. Its acquisition in 2015 by Peter Barbey has seemed to accelerate things to the point that layoffs and an end to the print edition has been all that new management could bring to the table.

“It’s really turning into a wake,” former Voice reporter Tom Robbins told The New York Times yesterday. “To throw out almost all of the union members goes against the grain of the Voice we love and cherish.”

Robbins last week penned a column for the NYT in response to the news that the print edition would be shuttered.

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