There’s not the time for journalists to spend researching these big ideas that can change the world–stories that shine a light on things that ordinarily we’d have no idea about. We saw that opportunity. Our business was doing well. We thought – we were making money, why couldn’t we give back at the same time?
Location: New York, New York
Profession: VP of Content, Contently
Can you tell us more about Contently’s Foundation?
We’re big believers in long form investigative reporting. Most of what you see online is now listicles and other junk. There’s not the time for journalists to spend researching these big ideas that can change the world–stories that shine a light on things that ordinarily we’d have no idea about. We saw that opportunity. Our business was doing well. We thought – we were making money, why couldn’t we give back at the same time?
As a company, we want to have a deeper purpose. I know that may sound a little cheesy, but we really mean it here. We want everyone who works here to realize that we don’t exist to only make money. We really believe in a greater cause – a better media world. That means, less crappy content, better story telling, more money for writers and other creative people. This is our way to show ourselves how serious we are about that. It’s one thing for an executive to say we believe something. It’s quite another to take a significant portion of a start-up’s time and money to start something like this.
We went to our CEO and the Board. They really supported us to make this a reality. We launched our Foundation last year. Since then, we’ve published a bunch of stories. We’ve done a lot of education work- helping journalists who are young learn how to do these investigative stories. The thing that makes me super happy is these stories live in the internet and are out in the world. I think it’s really important to share these stories and managing this gives me so much satisfaction.
What have you done to help train journalists?
We hired an investigations editor from the New York Post. He’s a veteran, with 25 years of great experience. As a mentor for all of the journalists in our orbit, he can work with them individually. He also writing a text book for young reporters on how to do this type of work. Instead of being on their own, they now have a mentor to help them. We hope that it will help them create amazing work.
What project that the Foundation has supported are you most proud of?
I’m proud of the story we wrote on the massage industry – Looking for a Happy Ending.
When we see signs in New York City about massage parlors, people don’t think twice about them. But, we dug into these establishments and uncovered that they are sketchy and hotbeds for sex trafficking. A lot of the women work there voluntarily. While it’s not super reputable, it’s widespread, because of the pay.
What we did really well (I think) is take a holistic look at the industry and not come at the story with any judgments. There’s almost as many of these massage parlors as there are bars in New York City. We found police turned a blind eye to them. It’s a huge underworld of business that takes place. Hopefully our story will lead to changes in the industry – that’s the ultimate goal to change things for the better.
What are your goals for Contently’s Foundation for the future?
We want to prove that there are alternative business models for great journalism. The media industry has been hard hit by the internet and economics. We want to prove that corporations and foundations and people who are invested in our world and society can fund things like this. Great reporting doesn’t necessarily have to be supported by advertisers. If we can prove that as a nonprofit we be funded by for-profit companies and still do great journalism, then the future is bright.
We won a big journalism award for an investigative piece last year – the Donald Robinson Award for Investigative Journalism for Angels of Death by Dan Patterson. It was so important as a validation of what we are doing. Our peers in philanthropy, and start-ups, and peers in journalism are noticing that our work is important and good. It’s really flattering more than anything else. Hopefully, we’ll win more awards in the future!