Will Inky, WHYY Compete for Grant Money?

Is this town big enough for both?

Is this town big enough for two large-scale, grant-funded reporting enterprises? We’re about to find out.

Tuesday’s announcement that the Philadelphia Media Network — owner of the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com — was converting to non-profit ownership in order to attract grant money raised eyebrows across town at public radio station WHYY, whose own non-profit reporting efforts are, of course, largely paid for by grants and donations.

We asked Tuesday if the philanthropic pie was big enough to support both news organizations. It seems that WHYY officials have the same question on their mind.

“There is real potential that we will have more competition for our own fundraising among the donor community,” WHYY CEO Bill Marazzo said in a Tuesday email to staff, adding: “I have no doubt that WHYY has the quality of staff and the depth of experience in news and information to fully meet the challenges ahead.”

Art Ellis, a spokesman for WHYY, confirmed the email’s authenticity to Philly Mag, but played down its importance. “This is all very new and fluid and we’re all trying to figure out the implications,” he said.

Officials involved with PMN and its transition suggested, however, that the newspapers will target a different community of grant-makers, more at the national level. As we reported Tuesday, officials at the newspapers have their eyes on other news organizations — like the Washington Post and L.A. Times — which have received grant funding from national organizations like the Ford Foundation and the Gates Foundation to fund reporting projects. The papers won’t just be looking to local funders, in other words.

But it’s still early, and the issue is one to keep an eye on as the newspapers start their new era.