(MENAFN- AFP) Philadelphia's two daily newspapers are being donated to a newly created non-profit organization in a bid to keep the struggling news operations alive, the owner announced Tuesday.
Under the plan, the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News will be operated by a tax-exempt public benefit corporation, in the latest upheaval at a news organization which has undergone several ownership changes and bankruptcy over the past decade.
Gerry Lenfest, the sole owner and chairman of Philadelphia Media Network which owns the two dailies and its philly.com online operations, announced his plan for a newly created tax-exempt organization known as the Institute for Journalism in New Media, operated with the local Philadelphia Foundation.
Lenfest said in a statement that he hopes the plan will allow the groups to maintain a tradition of independent public service journalism and investigative reporting.
"My goal is to ensure that the journalism traditionally provided by the printed newspapers is given a new life and prolonged, while new media formats for its distribution are being developed," Lenfest said.
"Of all of the ventures I have been involved with in my life, nothing is more important than preserving the journalism that has been delivered by these storied news organizations."
The newsrooms will continue to operate under their current management team as a taxable subsidiary of the non-profit Institute.
"While still running the news organizations as a for-profit business, the new ownership structure under the Institute allows journalism at The Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and philly.com to benefit more readily from philanthropic dollars, yet still be governed by those best equipped to manage and operate these news outlets," the statement said.
Lenfest will donate $20 million in seed funding to the Institute, which will seek other philanthropic funding sources.
He will be the initial chairman of a 10-member board for the Institute, which will also include prominent journalists, academics and members of the philanthropic community.
The Inquirer had been among the largest and most prestigious US dailies but went into a downward spiral as it lost readers and advertising to online news operations.
In 2006, local investor Brian Tierney bought the dailies for $515 million in cash. But the group filed for bankruptcy in 2009.
That price declined to $139 million at a 2010 bankruptcy auction, and to $55 million when it was sold again in 2012.
Lenfest and businessman Lewis Katz paid $88 million for the operations in 2014, and Lenfest became the sole owner when Katz died in a plane crash that year.
The newspapers continued to struggle, with further cuts to the newsroom staff announced in 2015.
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