Center for Investigative Reporting will dissolve in merger with ‘Mother Jones’

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Reveal will continue as a radio show and podcast but parent organization Center for Investigative Reporting will dissolve as a nonprofit next year as part of a merger announced Thursday with the nonprofit that runs Mother Jones.

Reveal and its documentary unit CIR Studios will join the Foundation for National Progress, the nonprofit entity that publishes Mother Jones, according to Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein. She will continue to serve as CEO. 

As part of the merger, the Foundation for National Progress will change its name to the Center for Investigative Reporting, Bauerlein said.

Four staff members will be laid off due to “administrative redundancies,” according to a Mother Jones spokesperson. The combined organization will have 118 staffers, 73 of which will be editorial. The organizations will also merge their boards. 

Talks of a merger began earlier this year, leaders of the two organizations said. Both organizations are based in San Francisco and have “decades of history together,” Bauerlein said. 

“So at a time when journalism is really challenged and democracy is in a lot of peril, it just seemed to make sense to think about, how can we put the strongest possible newsroom into play on the most possible platforms and with the best possible opportunity to reach audiences wherever they are?” she said. 

Those talks “naturally flowed out of some conversations that we happened to be in,” said Mother Jones Editor in Chief Clara Jeffery, who will lead the combined newsroom.

Mother Jones will continue to publish its magazine and website.   

“We looked at Reveal and this fantastic radio show and documentary film suite of work that they have” as a “way for us to explore new ways to reach new and deeper audiences,” Jeffery said. 

‘Energizing to supporters’

CIR CEO Robert Rosenthal said he sees the merger as a “huge opportunity” and pointed to Mother Jones’ diverse revenue streams and “its sophistication for many years on business, which CIR’s never really done well.” 

CIR has experienced financial challenges in recent years, which led to layoffs.

CIR has been able to raise a lot of money through philanthropy, Rosenthal said, but does not have the diversity of revenue streams that Mother Jones has. 

“From my perspective, it’s not like jamming things we both do well together,” he said. “This is really putting parts together that fit and taking advantage of that.”

Rosenthal will be CEO emeritus and assist in a strategic leadership capacity.

“We’re pretty convinced that the only future for high-quality journalism is a multipronged hybrid, basically nonprofit business model,” Bauerlein said. “… That includes, in this particular case, membership, it includes subscriptions, it includes major-gifts fundraising … and flexible advertising. And you have to be really nimble and flexible in putting those pieces together and constantly rebalancing all the legs of the stool.”

Reveal and CIR Studios offer a “complimentary platform on which to reach the audiences that are critical to all of these revenue streams,” she said. 

Mother Jones and CIR have received funding commitments of $21 million to support the transition for three years. Among the foundations that have made commitments are the Park Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Reva & David Logan Family Foundation, and the Lodestar Foundation.

“Monica and I have done a lot of the fundraising together and dealt with a lot of different people,” Rosenthal said. “And the question of consolidation is on everyone’s mind from, I’ll call it the donor field, especially institutional donors and also individuals who really support our kind of work.”

“We have discovered that combining forces is really energizing to supporters,” Bauerlein said.

Reveal airs on 520 public radio stations and will retain its partnership with PRX. Al Letson will continue to host the show. 

The deal is expected to be finalized early next year. That will be followed by “six months to a year of really integrating staff, figuring out workflows, figuring out efficiencies,” Jeffery said. The organizations are already planning projects, she said, but determining which platforms are best suited for different story ideas will be “much more of a concerted programmatic effort.”

“Our hope is that for a lot of stories, we’ll be telling versions … [on] all these different formats,” she said. 

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