The Fund for Investigative Journalism was founded in 1969 by the late Philip M. Stern, a public-spirited philanthropist who devoted his life “to balancing the scales of justice,” in the words of a friend. Stern was convinced small amounts of money invested in the work of determined journalists would yield enormous results in the fight against racism, poverty, corporate greed and governmental corruption. Stern’s theory proved true in the Fund’s first year, when a tiny grant of $250 enabled reporter Seymour Hersh to begin investigating a tip concerning a U.S. Army massacre at the Vietnamese village of My Lai. A subsequent Fund grant of $2,000 allowed Hersh to finish reporting the story.
“Think of it,” Stern later wrote, “a mere $2,250 in Fund grants enabled Seymour Hersh to leverage a whiff into a colossal stink and contribute mightily to the change in how Americans viewed the war in Vietnam.”
Over three decades, the Fund has awarded more than $1.5 million in grants to freelance reporters, authors and small publications, enabling the publication of more than 700 stories and broadcasts and some 50 books. “Without support from the Fund for Investigative Journalism, The Progressive would simply not have been able to publish many of the stories that we are most proud of,” wrote Matthew Rothschild, the magazine’s editor. “Democracy depends on the circulation of this information; the Fund makes that circulation possible.”
Fund-supported projects have won a wide array of journalistic honors. They include two Pulitzer Prizes, two National Magazine Awards, the Raymond Clapper Award, the George Polk Award, the Sigma Delta Chi Award, the Worth Bingham Prize, the New York Newspaper Guild’s Front Page Award and many others. Authors working with the help of a Fund grant have won the Frank Luther Mott Award for the best media book, as well as the MacArthur Foundation’s coveted “genius” award. Recent books written with assistance from the Fund include Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill’s Black Mass: The Irish Mob, The FBI and A Devil’s Deal; Robert Friedman’s Red Mafiya – How the Russian Mob Has Invaded America; Ted Anton’s Eros, Magic and the Murder of Professor Culianu; Dan Baum’s Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure; and Joseph Rodriguez’ photodocumentary book East Side Stories – Gang Life in East LA.
Reporter Morton Mintz, past chairman of the Fund for Investigative Journalism, summed up its mission this way: “For more than 30 years, the Fund for Investigative Journalism has helped to finance exposes of harmful and wrongful conduct, such as corruption at all levels of government; corporate, governmental and press nonfeasance, misfeasance and malfeasance; abuses of civil and human rights and of the environment; unsafe medical technologies; and improper donor influence on research in academe.”