Two titans in the world of progressive journalism and investigations have joined forces.
The Progressive magazine and the Center for Media and Democracy have merged and are now operating under the umbrella of the Progressive Inc. Both groups are based in Madison and have national audiences.
The Progressive, which was founded in 1909 by U.S. Sen. Robert M. La Follette Sr. of Wisconsin, will continue to publish a monthly print edition and maintain a daily website, says Ruth Conniff, who joined the magazine in 1991 and took over as editor in September. She is the new editor-in-chief of the magazine and a vice-president of the Progressive Inc.
The Center for Media and Democracy will continue its current projects and investigations, including SourceWatch, which keeps track of advocacy groups, and ALEC Exposed, the group's ongoing expose of the American Legislative Exchange Council's push for corporate-backed legislation around the country. It will also maintain prwatch.org, its reporting site.
Lisa Graves, who has been at the helm of the Center for Media and Democracy since 2009, is president and publisher of the Progressive Inc., and Mary Bottari, who served as deputy director of CMD, has been named a vice-president who will continue to direct research for the organization.
Matt Rothschild, the longtime editor and publisher of The Progressive, will stay on as senior editor.
Conniff (who also writes a column for Isthmus) says the coupling brings together two groups whose shared mission is to expose the attempted takeover of civil society by "forces of greed." While La Follette took aim at corporate monopolies and poor working conditions, the Center for Media and Democracy has exposed the influence of money in politics and policymaking.
"On our side, we have this incredible name and historic tradition of fighting the robber barons," says Conniff. "And CMD is the premier operation fighting the modern robber barons. It's exciting to marry the two. I think there will be a lot of symbiosis."
The staff is now under one roof at The Progressive's longtime offices on East Main Street, a few blocks off the Capitol Square. Some of CMD's research and writings have already appeared in the magazine, and more will come. "Moving that kind of research capacity into The Progressive is exciting for us," says Conniff. "It's like moving a heavy-duty newsroom and research operation into the magazine."
The Progressive has struggled financially in recent years and early this winter laid off five workers. Graves, who will be in charge of keeping the Progressive Inc. afloat, says the two groups have complementary financial models, with the magazine relying primarily on subscriptions and CMD on donors and some foundation support.
"Bringing the two types of revenue processes together will make the organization as a team stronger," she says.
Graves says she is looking forward to expanding CMD's reach through The Progressive's subscription base. "Having [The Progressive's] print platform will be great for CMD's investigations."