Meet the Faces of Pro Publica

Some people believe all you need to succeed is an idea and a dream. In ProPublica’s case, all you need is a dream and some friends with a whole lot of money.

In Fall 2006, Paul Steiger, the former managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, got a phone call from Herbert and Marion Sandler about a business venture. Steiger said he knew little about the Sandlers, except that they were former chief executives of the Golden West Financial Corporation – one of the nation’s largest mortgage lenders and savings and loans.

With money to spare, the Sandlers wanted to invest in something big. They told Steiger to come up with a proposal for a nonprofit news organization that focused on investigative journalism. After seeing Steiger’s plan, the Sandlers were instantly sold. They told Steiger that they would finance the organization, but only if he would run it. After some thought, Steiger agreed.

The Sandlers committed a chunk of their personal fortune – $10 million a year to the project to be exact. And so, ProPublica was born.

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Today, ProPublica has become one of the few success stories for online journalism. But behind every great success, is a great leader, or in this case a team of great leaders.

ProPublica’s current editor-in-chief, president and chief executive is Paul Steiger, but Steiger is not alone. He has the help of two other experienced media gurus. The first is managing editor Stephen Engelberg – a former managing editor of The Oregonian, Portland, Oregon and former investigative editor for the The New York Times. The second is general manger Richard Tofel – the former assistant publisher of The Wall Street Journal.

With a strong backbone, ProPublica came onto the scene in October 2007, commenced operations  in January 2008, and began publishing in June 2008. And thus, an online journalism powerhouse was born. But it’s not just the leaders that make this news outlet what is it, it’s the employees.

Staffed by army of 32 working journalists, all dedicated to investigative reporting on stories with significant impact, ProPublica is taking on the world of investigative journalism by storm.

For an aspiring journalist like myself, ProPublica is the place to be if I want to learn the ropes of professional online journalism. Their staff seems to be an extremely well-versed and experienced group of individuals – people I could definitely learn a lot from. Simply having the opportunity to work with established journalism honchos such as Steiger, Engelberg and Tofel would be like having years of journalism experience at my fingertips.

Steiger, Engelberg, Tofel and other ProPublica staffers have all made their marks in the history of journalism in a variety of mediums. Interestingly, they have also all managed to make a successful the transition from print and other news outlets to the Internet – an impossible task according to some journalists. To me, this says that anything is possible if you are willing to make it happen. Maybe all you really need is an idea and a dream after all.

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