The Fund for Investigative Journalism was founded in 1969 by the late Philip M. Stern, a public-spirited philanthropist who devoted his life “to balancing the scales of justice,” in the words of a friend. Stern was convinced small amounts of money invested in the work of determined journalists would yield enormous results in the fight against racism, poverty, corporate greed and governmental corruption. Stern’s theory proved true in the Fund’s first year, when a tiny grant of $250 enabled reporter Seymour Hersh to begin investigating a tip concerning a U.S. Army massacre at the Vietnamese village of My Lai. A subsequent Fund grant of $2,000 allowed Hersh to finish reporting the story.
“Think of it,” Stern later wrote, “a mere $2,250 in Fund grants enabled Seymour Hersh to leverage a whiff into a colossal stink and contribute mightily to the change in how Americans viewed the war in Vietnam.”
Over three decades, the Fund has awarded more than $1.5 million in grants to freelance reporters, authors and small publications, enabling the publication of more than 700 stories and broadcasts and some 50 books. “Without support from the Fund for Investigative Journalism, The Progressive would simply not have been able to publish many of the stories that we are most proud of,” wrote Matthew Rothschild, the magazine’s editor. “Democracy depends on the circulation of this information; the Fund makes that circulation possible.”