As the economics of high-end journalism continue to worsen, it is interesting — and, if you’re a fan of journalism, encouraging — to see how much non-profit journalism is being created. NPR is of course the most famous model but there’s also ProPublica, Pierre Omidyar‘s First Look Media, and a lot of other foundation- and philanthropist-funded projects.
Add to this list The Marshall Project, a “not-for-profit, non-partisan news organization dedicated to covering America’s criminal justice system.” It’s being launched by Neil Barsky, a former journalist, hedge-funder, and most recently film director. (He’s also a friend of mine, but don’t hold that against him.)
Here’s the rest of the Marshall Project’s mission statement:
The Marshall Project is founded on two simple ideas:
1) There is a pressing national need for excellent journalism about the U.S. court and prison systems. The U.S. has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. From spiraling costs, to controversial drug laws, to prison violence, to concerns about systemic racial bias, there is a growing bipartisan consensus that America’s criminal justice system is in dire need of reform. As traditional media companies cut back on enterprise reporting, the Marshall Project will serve as a dynamic digital hub for information and debate on the legal and corrections systems.
2) With growing awareness of the system’s failings, now is an opportune moment to launch a national conversation about criminal justice. There are numerous indications of the country’s appetite for reform. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recently proposed sweeping changes to mandatory sentencing guidelines for drug offenses. In New York State, the Rockefeller drug laws were amended to give judges more discretion over sentencing. Marijuana is now decriminalized or legal in 15 states. And for the first time in decades, the national prison population is beginning to decline.
We believe honest storytelling is a powerful agent of social change. The Marshall Project will be an agenda-setting resource for up-to-the-minute news, in-depth reporting and commentary about criminal justice. Our goal is to help make criminal justice reform an important part of the national debate by the 2016 presidential campaign. Just as a “national conversation” dramatically altered the country’s views on gay marriage and education reform, so too can a national conversation help us confront our troubled courts and prisons.
The Marshall Project will combine the best of the old and the new in journalism. We will achieve our goals through the use of conventional investigative reporting and opinion writing, and embrace new technologies currently transforming the media, including interactive graphics, immersive digital stories, short video documentaries and content generated by our readers. We will curate the daily torrent of criminal justice news from publications around the country, highlight the work of advocacy groups on both the right and left, host debates, and drive a lively discussion on social media.
The Marshall Project will be funded with the support of foundations and donors. For more information, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.