It has been very painful to watch papers like the Post offer buyouts to dozens of talented journalists at the height of their powers while shutting overseas bureaus and even entire sections of the paper. Not to pick on any one institution, but, from a constitutional perspective, how did we end up in a society where Williams College has (or had, before September) an endowment well in excess of one billion dollars, while the Washington Post, a fountainhead of Watergate and so much other skeptical and investigative reporting critical to the republic’s health, is in jeopardyàI’m sure that Williams-generated nostalgia in the emotional lives of wealthy people is hard to overestimate, but still […]
The typical spend rate for endowed nonprofits is in the five-percent range. If the Washington Post had a two billion dollar endowment, it would be able to fund a very healthy newsroom. And this is before revenue from continuing operations—advertising, circulation, etc., which could surely cover at least the cost of distribution and overhead, particularly if the form of delivery is increasingly digital. Two billion dollars, by the way, represents something in the neighborhood of five per cent of Warren Buffett’s net worth, the last I knew that figure. (Buffett is a director of the Washington Post Company and one of the great public-minded businessmen of his age, although my impression is that, as someone who is so talented at making money, he is congenitally unhappy about giving it away—so he has asked his friend Bill Gates to do it for him).