The Huffington Post said Sunday that it will bankroll a group of investigative journalists, directing them at first to look at stories about the nation's economy.
The popular Web site is collaborating with The Atlantic Philanthropies and other donors to launch the Huffington Post Investigative Fund with an initial budget of $1.75 million. That should be enough for 10 staff journalists who will primarily coordinate stories with freelancers, said Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post.
Work that the journalists produce will be available for any publication or Web site to use at the same time it is posted on The Huffington Post, she said.
The Huffington Post Web site is a collection of opinionated blog entries and breaking news. It has seven staff reporters.
Huffington said she and the donors were concerned that layoffs at newspapers were hurting investigative journalism at a time the nation's institutions need to be watched closely. She hopes to draw from the ranks of laid-off journalists for the venture.
"All of us increasingly have to look at different ways to save investigative journalism," she said.
The Huffington Post venture is reminiscent of ProPublica, a nonprofit independent newsroom funded by The Sandler Foundation and headed by Paul Steiger, former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal. ProPublica works with a $10 million budget.
Huffington said she hoped to encourage others to fund similar ventures. Foundation spending to support journalists is a promising trend, although the money set aside for such ventures represents far less than what a newspaper would spend to thoroughly cover a community, said Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism.
Foundation-based journalism will also require organizations to prove that situations are being looked at with a truly open mind, a larger burden than that faced by newspapers, he said.
The Huffington Post skews liberal, but its founder promised that the work done by the investigative fund would be nonpartisan. The group would be discredited quickly if it puts out faulty information, said Nick Penniman, the fund's executive director.
"We care about democracy, not Democrats," he said.
Rosenstiel said the HuffPost is following another recent trend encouraging content to be reproduced virally for maximum exposure, instead of trying to direct people exclusively to the site.
The HuffPost also promises to give a higher profile to work produced by other reporting groups, such as The Center for Public Integrity and The Institute for Justice and Journalism.