In summary

As California began to shut down in March, the CalMatters board of directors asked me to focus on one question: Will the virus crisis threaten our ability to deliver extraordinary journalism at a time when it’s more important than ever?

As California began to shut down in March, the CalMatters board of directors asked me to focus on one question: Will the virus crisis threaten our ability to deliver extraordinary journalism at a time when it’s more important than ever?

We’re a nonprofit newsroom, and economic turmoil affects each of our supporters. Foundations must address immediate, unexpected needs while assessing the longterm impact on their ability to give. Corporations face immediate, dramatic changes to their operations. Individual donors have a range of challenges to consider.

Our financial modeling showed that the crisis could leave us $1 million or more short of our 2020 revenue goal. That would force us to reduce expenses, and nearly all of our costs are employee salaries.

So when the federal government offered payroll protection loans, our board had an in-depth discussion focused on two issues:

  1. Would we compromise our journalistic independence by accepting a government loan? We decided the answer was “no,” because the program is offered to all businesses with clear rules about repayment and forgiveness. It could not be used to influence our journalism.
  2. Do we meet the loan program’s rules, which say it’s designed to help companies facing economic uncertainty retain workers and maintain payroll? The board reached a consensus that, given our revenue model, the loan will significantly improve our chances of getting through this crisis without having to reduce staff.  

So we applied for, and received, a $535,000 loan that represents two and a half months of our payroll. When the board meets again in June, it’ll decide whether to seek the forgiveness that would turn the loan into a grant or pay it back.

As journalists who hold others accountable, we believe it’s important to share these details about our own operation. We have always been, and will continue to be, transparent about where our money comes from. (See the full list of everyone who has donated $1,000 or more.) I welcome your comments at neil@calmatters.org and I’m grateful to each reader and donor who puts trust in our organization.

Neil Chase is Chief Executive Officer of CalMatters.

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Neil Chase is the Chief Executive Officer of CalMatters. He was formerly Executive Editor at The Mercury News and the East Bay Times and has worked as a journalist at the San Francisco Examiner, Arizona...