Most of the news about the journalism business right now is grim. Storied newsrooms are being hollowed out and sold to hedge funds. Once-hot digital startups are cutting back and closing down. Even public radio and television are laying off staff. Just this year, the United States has lost more than 2,600 journalism jobs, and more than 20,000 media jobs altogether; since the Great Recession in 2008, newsrooms have shrunk by at least half. It’s no coincidence that during this same time, disinformation and propaganda have come to dominate our politics, to the point where next year’s presidential election…well, honestly, we don’t need to tell you what’s at stake.
So it’s pretty urgent that we get some good news about holding the powerful and corrupt accountable. Today, we have some, and we wanted to be sure our community of readers hears it first: Mother Jones is growing! We are joining forces with another storied nonprofit, The Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR), to become a stronger and more impactful newsroom that can deliver great, in-depth reporting on more platforms to millions more people.
Big picture: When this merger is done, you’ll be able to find powerful investigative reporting not just in our magazine and our digital platforms, but also on the radio, in your podcast feed, and on TV. If you care about journalists speaking truth to power, this is great news.
You may well have encountered CIR through their terrific investigative radio show and podcast, Reveal, which is heard on 520 public radio stations nationwide. If you haven’t, you’re in for a treat—and for a sample, may we recommend the recent investigation our two newsrooms released together, where Mother Jones reporter Julia Lurie exposed how for-profit hospitals turn foster kids into cash cows. Being able to not only read what she found, but directly hear the former foster kids who bravely spoke up about these abuses, is incredibly compelling.
The work that MoJo and CIR produce is somewhat different but highly complementary—they do radio and podcasting; we are great at digital and print publishing and social media. They do documentary films that appear on Netflix; we tell video stories on TikTok and Instagram. But we share the most important thing: our mission to do deep, investigative, and revelatory journalism that reaches audiences everywhere in the country, in every age and demographic group, so that those who abuse their power can’t get away with it.
And let’s be clear: Neither Mother Jones nor Reveal is going away. We’re getting stronger. We’ll continue to publish Mother Jones magazine and its website and social channels that together reach up to 8 million each month. We’ll keep producing Reveal, which is heard by more than 1 million people each week over the air, and via nearly 1 million podcast downloads each month. These two great brands complement each other; by putting them together, we can do more reporting, with less overhead.
And that’s critical right now. The digital revolution has forever changed how news is created, delivered, and paid for, and investigative journalism is at greatest risk. The few commercial news organizations that can still afford to produce this kind of in-depth, investigative reporting are increasingly turning to paywalls to make ends meet—an important business model, but one that makes the news harder to access for many people. Meanwhile, disinformation is plentiful and free.
Combined, Mother Jones and Reveal directly reach a monthly audience of 10 million, and millions more through partnerships around the country. Our goal is to keep growing that number, and especially to reach audiences who have not always been served by the nation’s traditional media. Young people, communities of color, and lower-income people have often not been well served by the news business. Because we’re a nonprofit, accountable to our readers and supporters and not to corporate owners or advertisers, we can put public service front and center.
So what does this mean in practice?
We will merge our two newsrooms into one, which can then put out great journalism through multiple platforms. Mother Jones magazine stays Mother Jones magazine, and the Reveal podcast and radio show remain Reveal. We also hope to build on Mother Jones’ video capability and CIR’s track record of making powerful television and documentaries (their most recent one, Victim/Suspect, about how police often bully rape victims into retracting their charges, was the most watched documentary on Netflix when it launched last spring). Our expansive web and social media presence will bring it all to people no matter where they get their news.
Bottom line: We will continue doing journalism that you can’t find anywhere else—deep dives and investigations that are all too rare in today’s media landscape; coverage of underreported beats and overlooked stories; sharing unique perspectives and compelling voices that add something to the day’s news.
But we’re not just strengthening our own work. Journalism everywhere is in crisis, especially as local news is collapsing, and a key part of our mission is to help other newsrooms build capacity for investigative reporting that can make a big impact. We will partner with local news organizations to help important stories get told, and share their work with a bigger audience.
It won’t be easy—nothing is in journalism! Over the last several months we have been poring over the numbers and working hard to raise the additional funds needed to make this transformation a reality. A lot of people and foundations stepped up, which gives us immense hope. And just like our journalistic strengths complement each other so well, so do our revenue models: With Mother Jones’ 50,000 donors and CIR’s long-standing support from foundations, it leads to more resilient and diverse funding.
We won’t lie to you: It’s still going to be hard as hell to make it all work. But we are so excited, so grateful, so encouraged, and so ready to join forces with CIR, and with you, to strengthen journalism and democracy at this immensely consequential moment.
There will be much to keep you updated on as we go, so please drop us a line below with your thoughts, questions, or whatever’s on your mind—because none of this works without an engaged and awesome community of readers and listeners.
Monika Bauerlein, CEO
Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief
P.S. In case you’re wondering, those titles and roles aren’t changing. Robert J. Rosenthal, CEO of CIR, will serve as CEO emeritus in a strategic leadership capacity, and Al Letson will continue hosting Reveal.
Want more information?
Of course you do—you’re a Mother Jones or Reveal fan, or both! The merger is expected to take effect in 2024, and today’s announcement (here’s the official press release) is just the beginning.
Three signature stories:
- The documentary film Victim/Suspect, which uncovers a nationwide pattern of young women reporting sexual assaults to police—only to be charged with making a false report and arrested. Victim/Suspect started streaming on Netflix in May 2023 and was nominated for a Critics Choice Documentary Award;
- “Behind the Smiles,” a 2019 expose on the extensive injuries sustained by Amazon warehouse workers in the retail giant’s quest for speed, which was a Pulitzer Prize finalist;
- “Kept Out,” a 2018 investigation about how banks keep people of color from becoming homeowners, which was also a Pulitzer Prize finalist.
Areas of focus: Voting, workers’ rights, reproductive rights, criminal justice, housing, immigration, the environment, sustainability, food security, and more, all often in partnership with local and community newsrooms.
Meet Mother Jones
Three signature stories:
- A huge undercover investigation in 2016 of the country’s private prison system;
- David Corn’s 2012 scoop about then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s disparaging 47 percent of voters;
- Samantha Michaels’ yearlong, groundbreaking reporting into “failure to protect” laws. Published in 2022, it sparked responses from legislators and law enforcement officials all around the country, and has been honored with at least half a dozen journalism awards, including the National Magazine Award for best video for its accompanying 17-minute documentary.
Areas of focus: Voting rights, disinformation, corruption and foreign influence, dark money, gender justice, racial justice, social justice, climate—and how they intersect.
Get the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter, which readers rave about as a trusted source that makes it easy to cut through the noise and get ahead of things, with in-depth journalism on underreported beats and perspectives on the day’s news.
A mini case study: Our powers combined
This isn’t some new shiny object or inflated promise to fix journalism. Mother Jones and CIR’s history of great investigative reporting and powerful partnership goes back four decades.
In one recent high-profile and high-impact collaboration, we jointly exposed abusive labor practices by one of the biggest sugar suppliers to the United States. It led to a House committee investigation and the eventual prohibition of sugar imports from that company. And we recently broke the news about a previously undisclosed investigation from the Department of Homeland Security, looking into the working conditions and the abuses that we brought to light.
How big of a deal is this? According to a retired special agent, “This could be the first time a corporation would be held criminally liable for forced labor in their own supply chains.”
That’s the power of putting investigative journalism everywhere.
Help us hit the ground running
This will not be an easy road. Help us celebrate the awesome news and kick-start a new chapter in journalism that isn’t dependent on shareholders or quarterly profits, but instead a community of supporters like you. Support Mother Jones and our new, combined organization with a much-needed year-end donation today.
What do you think?
Your questions, reactions, words of caution, or encouragement? We’d truly appreciate your thoughts on this big, exciting step forward—especially knowing there’s a lot to figure out in the months ahead. You truly are vital to it all.