THE COMMONWEALTH CAMPAIGN FOR CIVIC JOURNALISM
CommonWealth magazine and MassINC receive $1 million gift
BOSTON—MassINC today announced that its award-winning civic journal, CommonWealth magazine, will receive $1 million from an anonymous donor. The gift is in celebration of MassINC’s 15th anniversary and long-standing contribution to non-partisan reporting on politics and policy in Massachusetts. MassINC must match the initial $500,000 gift in order to receive the full $1 million.
Today’s announcement launches an 18-month fundraising campaign to meet the challenge, continuing CommonWealth’slegacy as one of the country’s leading, independent news and information outlets. “The CommonWealth Campaign for Civic Journalism” will run through the fall of 2012 and will include a series of special events and promotions for donors focused on the role of independent media and transparency in public policy.
“Providing the public with long-form, unbiased journalism through CommonWealth magazine was one of the founding principles of MassINC,” said Greg Torres, President of MassINC and Publisher of CommonWealth magazine. “15 years later, with tangible examples of how it has influenced public policy, the magazine is even more valuable today. We are very grateful to our donors for recognizing this value and for encouraging others to join them in investing in independent journalism.”
CommonWealth is supported by individual and corporate gifts, philanthropy and subscriptions. In 2009, the magazine received the first of three grants from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and The Boston Foundation to begin an online news site and to enhance its investigative reporting arm. While it pursues revenue generating initiatives like online advertising, CommonWealth continues to rely on philanthropic sources who acknowledge the magazine’s role in providing in-depth reporting on public policy and civic life at a time when this brand of journalism is in danger of disappearing. According to Paper Cuts, a website that tracks layoffs in the news business, 178 American newspapers have closed or stopped publishing a newsprint edition since 2008.
“From a funder’s point of view, investing in CommonWealth magazine is a highly-leveraged opportunity to have an impact on public policy and citizen engagement while supporting award-winning journalism.” said Paul S. Grogan, President and CEO of The Boston Foundation and member, the Knight Foundation Board. “Because traditional news organizations have been forced to scale back investigative and long form journalism, TBF and Knight have invested in CommonWealth magazine to support the civic journalism critically important to our democracy. We hope this new anonymous challenge gift will galvanize new donor support for MassINC and CommonWealth.”
CommonWealth magazine was founded in 1996, alongside the start-up of MassINC, a Boston-based think tank utilizing research, journalism and civic events to advance the issues that impact the middle class. First published as a quarterly journal, and now operating as both a print magazine and an online news site, CommonWealth magazine has long been regarded as required reading for policymakers, political pundits and engaged citizens throughout Massachusetts. Through the late 1990’s and throughout the 2000’s, CommonWealth delivered issue after issue of unique, in-depth reporting – from a full “special edition” analysis of 15 years of education reform – to continuous coverage, done in 5-year intervals, of the economic status of the Massachusetts middle class – to provocative profiles of Beacon Hill’s most illustrious players.
“CommonWealth magazine was launched with an independent editorial mission that would further MassINC’s ability to provide insightful, evidence-based information about the challenges and opportunities facing our citizens and communities,” said Tripp Jones, co-founder of MassINC and first publisher of CommonWealth magazine. “There were many that doubted its sustainability but now, at 15, the magazine is more relevant than ever and its longevity is a testament to its outstanding content and to the gutsy group of initial backers and ongoing sponsors who continue to embrace this unique brand of journalism.”
CommonWealth’s recent successes include: groundbreaking investigations into the MBTA, the Probation Department; special education practices, and tax subsidies; long-form articles on education reforms; public records laws; renewable energy, and state and municipal finance reforms. The magazine has also introduced a number of new features including:
Back Story: A weekly column sent to subscribers that gives the story behind the story in politics and public policy byCommonWealth writers.
The Download: a daily feature that compiles all of the best coverage of politics and public policy from that day’s newspapers, magazines, broadcasts and blogs – complete with analysis to help make sense of it all.
Full Disclosure: a special web page within commonwealthmagazine.org that provides public data obtained and paid for byCommonWealth to be shared by all free of charge.
CommonWealth Conversations: A series of policy discussions, such as the recent “New Path for Probation” event, which provide moderated analysis of the issues making headlines by players most influential to the outcome.
What Works: Dispatches from across the country that look at successful policies and practices that could be replicated here in Massachusetts.
Ethics filings for more than 250 elected and appointed officials in Massachusetts.
There are nearly 4,900 elected and appointed state and county officials required to file annual Statements of Financial Interest (SFI), and all public employees at all levels are subject to the conflict of interest statutes and have to file disclosures if there is an appearance of conflict in their jobs or responsibilities. (See “Missed Opportunity,” in our Fall 2009 issue, for more about the law.)
CommonWealth magazine has gathered hundreds of the economic disclosures filed by all members of the Legislature, constitutional officers, cabinet members, and some of the state’s major policymakers, as well as many elected county officials. While we can’t change the law regarding access, we can make it easier for the public to see these important filings from their government’s elected and appointed stewards.
Beginning with our Fall issue, we have launched a new project called “Full Disclosure,” where we will post a variety of forms, documents, and records which are intended to be public but are generally inaccessible behind a maze of bureaucracy, inefficiency, and lack of technology.
More than 250 SFIs are now posted on CommonWealth’s website; to access them, download the Excel spreadsheet here. With the launch of our new site in the coming months, the forms will be presented in a database to allow the public to search in various ways, including by district, committee membership, policy issue, and other key elements. We will also be posting more SFIs of more key players in policymaking decisions at the state and county level.
In addition, CommonWealth will be gathering copies of conflict of interest disclosures and, because they are intended to be public record, make those documents available on our site as well. And as we gather documents through state and local public records request and Freedom of Information Act requests, the site will host those as well to keep readers abreast of essential records necessary to maintaining open government and an informed public.
“Anything that increases transparency in an appropriate and constructive manner is good for government,” says Pam Wilmot, executive director of the Boston chapter of the watchdog group Common Cause. “This is information that should be made, is needed to be made, public. . . That should be the role of government but the fact is a lot of third parties have been taking the lead. State government hasn’t technologically risen to the modern challenges.”