Dear FCIR Supporter,
We are making some changes to the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, and I want to explain where we’ve been and where we’re going.
FCIR was founded in 2010 with a mission to complement and work with existing media in Florida to produce investigative reporting in the public interest. For five years, FCIR did just that, working with Florida news media large and small and winning awards and recognition for our efforts.
Despite modest resources — our annual budget has never exceeded $250,000 and we never had more than two full-time employees at any given time — we had ambition and made an impact. And still do, though in recent years, we’ve seen our foundation funding decline as our individual donations increased.
You no doubt noticed our fundraising campaign last year, which dominated FCIR’s website from September through December. While we raised more from individuals than ever before, our foundation funding has declined as well. The increased individual donations we’ve received haven’t replaced the foundation funding we’ve lost.
While we face financial challenges — not uncommon or unique in the growing world of nonprofit public service journalism — we are very proud of the journalism we’ve produced. FCIR’s recent reporting on Florida’s “climate change” ban received international attention and encouraged unprecedented public discussion about sea-level rise in the Sunshine State. Other examples of FCIR’s impact journalism covered deportations, solar energy, underrepresentation of black police officers, FBI informants, police militarization, toll lanes, economic incentives, Big Sugar, privatized education, remedial education, and much more.
Given our funding challenges, I began discussions earlier this year with FCIR’s board president, Sharon Rosenhause, about what a reimagined FCIR would look like. The goal was to play to FCIR’s strengths and to position the nonprofit for long-term sustainability while also ensuring our modest resources could be impactful, in keeping with our mission.
Toward this goal, FCIR’s board of directors has approved a plan to refocus FCIR on three separate programs:
1) FCIR will begin to offer individual grants of $500 to $5,000 to journalists working on Florida stories, with the amount awarded annually dependent on foundation funding and fundraising from individuals. These grants, which will be available to independent journalists and those working for news organizations, will fund journalism in Florida’s public interest. These projects may include traditional print stories, documentaries, radio reports, data visualizations and even more experimental efforts. Grantees will work under the guidance of FCIR’s staff and board and in partnership with traditional and emerging media, in a model similar to that of the Fund for Investigative Journalism and the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute, which provide grants to journalists for national and international projects. We will announce more details about the application process soon.
2) Expanding on my previous work about the FBI’s counterterrorism program, FCIR is launching a newly funded project that will investigate Islamophobia and the intersection of national security and civil liberties. This project will focus on stories for national media, but we will also look for stories of interest to Floridians.
3) In an effort to help expand nonprofit journalism, FCIR will act as a fiscal sponsor for journalism organizations and individual journalists to receive funding that requires a 501(c)(3) umbrella. Some foundations that support journalism will only make grants available to 501(c)(3) organizations. Offering fiscal sponsorship will allow individual journalists and startups to receive such funding and donors to make tax-deductible contributions. In fact, were it not for the fiscal sponsorship FCIR received through Tampa-based Public Communications in 2010, this organization likely would not exist today. FCIR was previously a fiscal sponsor for the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting, which has since obtained 501(c)(3) status. We recently agreed to act as a fiscal sponsor for journalist Will Potter — who investigates factory farming, the criminalization of environmental and animal-rights activism under post-9/11 terrorism laws, and the U.S. prison system — and we expect to expand this program.
FCIR will continue to seek support from foundations, individuals and corporations. Should FCIR receive new funding to cover Florida intensely and collaborate with partners across the state, we would be thrilled to focus more resources on the original mission, which we still believe is critical given the current coverage gaps in Florida news media today.
FCIR is still about the journalism, but we have to respect and live with the financial realities. The changes we’re making put an emphasis on supporting journalism in Florida, covering an issue that has exploded in the presidential campaign and is largely uncovered by national and local media, and assisting others who want to pursue nonprofit journalism.
We can’t thank you enough for your loyalty and generosity. And we look forward to being a source of serious, smart journalism that you deserve.
If you are interested in learning more about how you can support FCIR, or if you have any questions about these changes, please email me.