WHYY resignations reportedly disrupt talks about large grant

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The departure of Chris Satullo from WHYY has complicated talks about a potentially large grant to the station, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported Saturday.

According to the paper, Satullo, former v.p. of news, and Matt Golas, managing editor of WHYY’s PlanPhilly, recently pitched to four major philanthropies the idea of starting PlanBurgh, a website about urban planning in Pittsburgh. The site would be similar in scope to PlanPhilly, a Philadelphia website that WHYY acquired in February. Golas and Satullo sought to raise $1.5 million, according to the Inquirer.

The two were meeting with foundation representatives before Satullo’s departure was revealed Sept. 3, the paper said. Satullo has not explained his departure. Golas resigned a week later, telling Current that he would seek “a work atmosphere that appreciates entrepreneurial, nimble and collaborative behavior across the board.”

Their departures have raised questions about the future of PlanBurgh, according to anonymous sources cited by the Inquirer. According to the paper:

No commitments were made to fund the $1.5 million cost of the project, but the conversation about PlanBurgh was moving forward.

However, the sudden departures of the executives most closely associated with the project has made foundation representatives pause, unsure how or whether to proceed, according to people familiar with the process. The donor groups have been discussing the matter among themselves, trying to determine whether the plan can go forward and in what way.

The Heinz Endowments had already awarded WHYY $50,000 to study the feasibility of PlanBurgh, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

WHYY spokesperson Art Ellis told the Post-Gazette, “We would be very happy to see PlanBurgh happen and have a home at WHYY. At the same time, this is not something we’ve built into our budget for this year. . . . We’re moving ahead. It’s a long process.”

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