The nonprofit news organization ProPublica typically receives about 10 donations a day. On Monday, its website was deluged with about three every minute.
ProPublica is one of several outlets, including The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, witnessing a swell in donations or subscriptions since Donald Trump’s victory in the Nov. 8 election. ProPublica, The Times and The Washington Post got a boost Sunday from comedian John Oliver, who lamented “fake facts” that circulated on social media during the campaign and urged viewers to “support actual journalism.”
“A lot of people after the election feel compelled to respond in one civic way or another, and journalism is an important part of that,” said Richard Tofel, ProPublica’s president.
The support is a hopeful sign for an industry looking to answer how so many journalists missed the Trump surge. Hurt by the loss of readers and advertisers over many years, newspaper publishers have had to cut their staffs and pare their coverage. The Wall Street Journal cut at least 50 positions this month.
At The Times, new print and digital subscriptions have risen at four times their normal rate since Election Day, according to spokeswoman Eileen Murphy. The company saw record traffic on its website Nov. 8 through Nov. 10, the newspaper said in a statement Monday.
In a Nov. 13 letter to readers, New York Times Co. chairman and publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. and executive editor Dean Baquet vowed to “rededicate” the newspaper “to the fundamental mission of Times journalism.”
While the two said they believed their coverage of both presidential candidates was fair, they also asked, “Did Donald Trump’s sheer unconventionality lead us and other news outlets to underestimate his support among American voters?” Baquet also said separately in a Times story that journalists have “to do a much better job of being on the road, out in the country, talking to different kinds of people than the people we talk to.”
The letter prompted Trump to write on Twitter Sunday that The Times was “apologizing for their bad coverage of me.” In another post that day he said, “Wow, the @nytimes is losing thousands of subscribers because of their very poor and highly inaccurate coverage of the ‘Trump phenomena.’” His tweets spurred several journalists, including some at rival newspapers, to tweet back that more people should subscribe to The Times.
At The Wall Street Journal, owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., new subscriber volume spiked 300 percent on the day after the election, spokeswoman Colleen Schwartz said.
Investors have taken notice. Publicly traded newspaper stocks have marched higher since Election Day, with the largest publisher, Gannett Co., up 18 percent to lead the group. The Standard & Poor’s 500 Media Index, which includes TV, advertising and cable, has gained 3.7 percent. Bloomberg News, part of Bloomberg LP, competes with News Corp. and the Times in providing financial news and information.
Newsrooms are girding for battle with a president who pushed hard to discredit journalists in the eyes of his supporters. Trump dismissed critical stories as lies, barred reporters from his rallies, called for tougher libel laws and threatened to sue The Times for reporting on people who said he’d acted inappropriately toward them.
Tofel said he “got a little heads-up” from Oliver’s staff that Oliver would call on viewers of his show to donate to ProPublica. The producers asked if his website could handle the traffic that would likely result.
“We first saw a very substantial uptick, late Tuesday night when elections results were clear,” Tofel said. “Then it went to a very different level after the John Oliver broadcast.”
The public show of support for news organizations has also extended to public radio. KCRW, one of two outlets in the Los Angeles area associated with National Public Radio, experienced a doubling of donations in the week after the election, according to Jennifer Ferro, president of the Santa Monica, California-based station.
“We weren’t asking so obviously this was spontaneous,” Ferro said in an email.