News & Politics

Amid Staff Cuts, NPR Lands $17 Million in Grants

The money is earmarked for a new mobile platform and expanded health and education coverage.

NPR just hauled in $17 million in grants from four major foundations and a few individual donors to fund the development of a new mobile platform and expand its coverage of education and global health.

The grants come at a time NPR is facing a $6 million shortfall and is in the process of trimming its staff by 10 percent, leading to the impending departures of some of the network’s familiar voices and some of its most popular off-air people. But because the new funding is devoted to specific projects though, NPR’s overall budget woes won’t be alleviated by the gifts.

The money is coming from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Wallace Foundation, and Ford Foundation, as well as three private donors, including NPR’s acting president, Paul Haaga, who is kicking in $1 million.

Most of the money will go toward the development of revamped web and mobile interfaces, which NPR envisions will allow listeners to “move seamlessly among clock radios, Internet-enabled cars, tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices.” The new platforms will be developed in concert with stations in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Southern California, and Minnesota.

The remainder of the grant money will be spent on building out education and health coverage with large teams of on-air reporters, bloggers, and photojournalists. In a press release, NPR says these sections will grow similarly to projects like Planet Money, which covers economics, or Code Switch, which tracks race and culture. The education coverage foundation is being funded by the Gates and Wallace foundations, while money for the health beat is coming just from the Gateses.

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.