The New Watchdog

The New Watchdog

The state's newest nonprofit news outlet focuses on state politics, but it won't disclose backers.

The Minnesota Reformer debuted in mid-January with a focus on state politics. The Reformer is a nonprofit news organization but sells no subscriptions and has no advertising. The obvious question: Where does the money come from to support the journalism? “A big part of the [business] plan is that the content is free for sharing,” says deputy director Andrea Verykoukis.

The Reformer is part of a much larger nonprofit news network, States Newsroom, which touts “Relentless Capital Reporting.” The group, based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and Washington D.C., has 15 newsrooms across the U.S. and hopes to be in 20 states by the end of the year. Verykoukis says that the group is bankrolled by foundations based on an “old-fashioned philanthropy model.” She emphasizes the news org does not take corporate money.

Eventually, disclosure rules will make that info public, but the group is too new to have the necessary federal disclosure posted online, and Verykoukis declines to identify current funders. According to the website Influence Watch, “before 2019, the [States] Newsroom Network was a fiscally sponsored project of the Hopewell Fund, a left-leaning 501(c)(3) funding and fiscal sponsorship nonprofit managed by the Washington, D.C.-based consultancy firm Arabella Advisors, which manages multiple high-dollar left-leaning philanthropic organizations.”

Other local nonprofit news orgs include Minnesota Public Radio and MinnPost, the latter in a transition period after the January departure of CEO Andrew Wallmeyer.

Former Star Tribune reporter J. Patrick Coolican serves as Minnesota Reformer’s editor, with a staff of three reporters. Coolican doesn’t single out any specific local media as direct competition saying, “We want to write good stories that other people aren’t doing.” But why did Coolican jump from one the nation’s healthiest metro dailies to a startup?

“I was given an opportunity to do something fun and cool and that I think is going to be a great help to the community,” he says. “I think that there’s a robust media environment here. I think there’s always more room for more investigation, analysis, and storytelling.”

Read more from this issue