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Fewer grants, more risks: Four rules for nonprofit journalism funders, from the former president of ProPublica
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July 21, 2016, 12:25 p.m.
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LINK: www.pressgazette.co.uk  ➚   |   Posted by: Shan Wang   |   July 21, 2016

The London-based investigative news website Exaro is shutting down, despite assurances less than a week ago that it was still “open for business.” The small outlet was founded in 2011, backed by investor Jerome Booth through his company New Sparta, and has broken several major stories, including releasing a secretly taped meeting between a Sun journalist and Rupert Murdoch in which he revealed that he knew for years that his tabloid’s journalists had been bribing public officials. It also (controversially) broke the news of allegations of child abuse by senior government officials, a story that later rippled through larger news outlets.

Last Friday, David Hencke and Mark Conrad had been appointed to run the site jointly. (The site’s former editor-in-chief Mark Watts was let go; he’d warned last month that the site would go on leaderless and “its small team of about five full-time journalists and researchers appears set to be cut back severely.”)

A board meeting Wednesday, however, instead led to the sudden decision to shut down the site altogether:

Hencke said: “We are absolutely devastated. We were going ahead with plans and had only just put up a story the previous day, with a lot more in the pipeline, and suddenly we are told it’s closed just like that.”

Despite the sudden closure, Hencke praised owner Jerome Booth, saying: “He has funded it very generously for years and never interfered editorially.”

Former editor Mark Watts was fired last month. He told Press Gazette this morning: “The management has made itself a laughing stock by closing just days announcing that it was ‘open for business’. To just shut it like that is an act of mindless vandalism.”

But, in a tale as old as time, despite financial support from a wealthy owner, the site couldn’t seem to find a sustainable business model, and “a number of attempts to build a business model around the coverage, such as charging for data services and events, have failed to take off,” according to The Guardian. (Anglosphere journalists may remember the similar surprise defunding of The Global Mail in Australia two years ago.)

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