ThinkProgress has money and morale problems

Think Progress is the news site created as a supposedly independent subsidiary of the Center for American Progress, the Democratic Party’s leading think tank. In an exclusive story published Monday, the Daily Beast reveals the site is deeply in debt and is shedding writers:

A budget document provided to ThinkProgress management and obtained by The Daily Beast showed that the website was expecting a roughly $3 million gulf between revenue and expenses for 2019. ThinkProgress has never been a revenue generator, and has often made up for its deficits through fundraising efforts and funds from its mothership entity, the Center for American Progress (CAP). But the current outlook is significantly worse than ever before…

The numbers paint a grim picture for one of the better-known, unapologetically progressive media platforms. And it has been exacerbated by what a source described as a failure of leadership at CAP to provide answers about “the short- and long-term future of the site.”…

“Unfortunately, ThinkProgress has had a large and growing budget gap for going on two years now,” Navin Nayak, executive director of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, told The Daily Beast…

Sources at CAP and ThinkProgress told The Daily Beast that Nayak has had to engage in a series of “blunt” conversations with staffers at the website, telling them they should be looking for other jobs.

The story paints a picture of a downturn which isn’t the result of a single factor. The site staffed up after receiving some big post-election donations in 2016 but then Facebook changed its algorithms and traffic and ad revenue started to decline. So the site had more salaries to pay just as revenue went into a tailspin.

In addition, the site’s new editor, Jodi Enda, came from CNN and has tried to model ThinkProgress after a more traditional journalism site. But an article the site published critical of Bernie Sanders’ millionaire status apparently raised concerns inside the office. Enda was accused of making edits to the piece which she hadn’t told the author about prior to publication. The union sent a letter complaining about low morale caused by “lost trust and an unclear vision.”

Meanwhile, the site has lost five people this year, including the managing editor who announced her departure last week. More staff losses are expected in the coming months. That’s not surprising when a site is experiencing serious financial problems. Staffers are probably aware things are not going well long before anyone tells them to start looking for another job.

I have had some negative experiences with ThinkProgress authors in the past which caused me to believe the site was not terribly interested in the accuracy of claims it published. That said, a lot of the specific problems TP is facing are ones impacting sites on both the right and the left these days.