Staffers encouraged to look for new jobs.
One would think a progressive leftist media organization would thrive under a Republican administration.
The Daily Beast reported Monday morning that ThinkProgress, one of the most well-known leftist outlets, has started to face a major financial crisis as it expects “a roughly $3 million gulf between revenue and expenses for 2019.”
It does not help ThinkProgress that it has never generated revenue, but relied on “fundraising efforts and funds from its mothership entity, the Center for American Progress (CAP).” The Daily Beast continued:
According to the document, advertising revenue is projected to fall $350,000 short of what was budgeted this year, and online contributions are expected to fall short by nearly $180,000. The site is projected to have about $64,000 in grant revenue (money derived from donations to CAP and meant for coverage by ThinkProgress) in 2019. That’s roughly $60,000 short of what it had budgeted for the year and roughly $540,000 less than it received in 2018.
In the face of these falling revenue streams, ThinkProgress has seen payroll drop by 12 percent from its peak level in 2019 and “salary growth” by 5 percent, according to the document. Among those leaving is the site’s managing editor, Tara Culp-Ressler, who announced her departure last week.
One source told The Daily Beast that the blame falls on CAP since the organization has not provided ThinkProgress with any guidance on the future of the website:
“Unfortunately, ThinkProgress has had a large and growing budget gap for going on two years now,” Navin Nayak, executive director of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, told The Daily Beast. “Like most media organizations, ThinkProgress has relied on advertising revenue as a major source of funding, increasingly subject to the behavior of social-media platforms and their decisions on news distribution. As with many other digital media organizations, 2017 and 2018 were particularly challenging years in this regard, as ThinkProgress experienced a 40 percent drop in ad revenue over just one year, creating an inevitable budgetary strain.”
Management for ThinkProgress held a two-hour meeting with Nayak on Wednesday afternoon to discuss financial matters, according to a source at the outlet who requested anonymity. In a Thursday morning email to staff, viewed by The Daily Beast, management stressed that the “financial outlook has not improved in 2019 as CAP hoped it would” and that leadership at CAP plans to provide additional information about a path forward this month. According to the email, Nayak said he did not want to provide a lot of specifics at this current moment, so as not to “speculate.”
Sources at CAP and ThinkProgress told The Daily Beast that Nayak has had to engage in a series of “blunt” conversations with staffers at the website, telling them they should be looking for other jobs. These conversations took place even as the site’s union negotiated a contract at the end of 2018.
Other sources pointed out that ThinkProgress grew too much after the 2016 election because, like I said, progressive outlets should have received a boost with President Donald Trump. ThinkProgress received a lot of money, but from one-time donations. The sources also said that traffic went down once Facebook changed its algorithms.
I don’t think it helps that ThinkProgress has damaged its own reputation. In March, one article slammed Chick-fil-A for supposedly donating to homophobic groups in 2017. Rodney Bullard, the executive director for the Chik-fil-A Foundation explained that the foundation focuses on the community instead of culture and social wars. Besides, he stressed that the donation to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, the money went directly “to the fellowship’s summer camp, which focuses on helping low-income youth.”
A month later, author Jessica Goldstein released a piece that lashed out at presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) over his personal wealth despite the many times he criticizes the 1%. The fallout created high tension, which led to lower morale:
The senator responded to that piece (and accompanying video) with a highly publicized letter lacerating CAP for accepting corporate donations and suggesting that ThinkProgress was doing the bidding of those donors.
In the subsequent days, some members of the ThinkProgress staff began expressing concern about Editor in Chief Jodi Enda’s handling of the fallout. In early May, sources told The Daily Beast, the ThinkProgress writers’ union held a meeting at which the lead author on the Sanders item, Jessica Goldstein, accused Enda of making edits to the piece without telling her, and others complained that hours had passed without a correction note being appended. Enda said she apologized for the matter, publicly and privately. But the union members drafted a letter to her later that month in which they expressed concern that she had not stood “in solidarity” with Goldstein, who did not offer comment for this story.
More meetings will take place this week between ThinkProgress and CAP, but as you can tell from the numbers, a lot will have to happen in order for the website to stay afloat.
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