As a news organization, it’s always uncomfortable to be in the news, as opposed to just reporting it. But political appointees in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have put us in the headlines.
As you have read in related articles, the EPA told us without warning in late August that it plans to revoke a six-year award to partially fund the Bay Journal, beginning in 2018.
Providing a political appointee with the power to revoke grants is uncommon and, as near as we can determine, unprecedented. Typically, if a grant is revoked, it is because of poor performance. The EPA specifically told us that was not the reason, but rather because of a “shift in priorities,” without saying what that shift was.
The decision’s potential impact goes well beyond the Bay Journal, as there is no point in the EPA, or any agency, asking people to go through the cumbersome process of applying for multi-year funding awards if a political appointee can reverse them on a whim. We will be appealing this decision.
As this process begins, it has been gratifying to see the outpouring of support for our work. We’ve seen an important uptick in donations, protest letters to lawmakers and EPA officials and other helpful offers of assistance — things I’ll be talking more about in the future.
The grant cancellation has also raised questions about the future of the 27-year-old Bay Journal. First, let me say that we believe the EPA’s action has no merit. But the case may well take months to play out, creating a prolonged period of financial uncertainty for us. Though EPA funding provides only 40 percent of the Bay Journal’s funding, it is the largest single chunk of our budget. If the cut is upheld, filling that gap will be a challenge.
Most likely, we would be able to publish for about a year, which would buy time as our challenge to the EPA’s actions moves forward. Private support from readers, foundations and others is urgently needed to sustain our publication and ensure it continues to deliver the volume of quality reporting and writing you’re getting now.
Fortunately, we already had plans on the drawing board to diversify our funding sources and increase our financial security. It’s a challenge, but we’re working on it already. Things you can do to help:
- Use the envelope inserted in the October issue to make a special donation (you can also use the form on page 28 or the “Donate” button on our web site at bayjournal.com). The amount of money we raise by the end of the year will be critical for sustaining the Bay Journal for the future.
- Pass your Bay Journal on to friends, family members or coworkers and encourage them to subscribe — for free. Our greatest strength is in our readers.
We believe our model of producing a free, widely distributed publication — built on support from readers, foundations, advertising and other revenue sources — has served us and our readers well. And it has the potential to sustain our high-quality reporting on the Chesapeake Bay for years to come. In that regard, as our managing editor Tim Wheeler likes to say, “our priorities haven’t changed.”