Family Foundation Gives Its Last, Funds $1M to Save Black Newspaper in Baltimore

Family Foundation Gives Its Last, Funds $1M to Save Black Newspaper in Baltimore

A rare and unexpected donation just might have saved a journalist’s dream.

Lisa Snowden-McCray, co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Baltimore Beat, a free newspaper run by Black editors and writers for the city’s Black residents, was offered $1 million from the Lillian Holofcener Charitable Foundation to save the paper, a donation that nearly cleared out the foundation’s bank.

According to NBC News, the former publishing company pulled the plug on the paper that Snowden-McCray founded with editor, Brandon Soderberg. Curious about the plans for the paper, Adam Holofcener, a lawyer-activist who represented artists, and an associate of Snowden-McCray, proposed the money in 2020 to support the paper.

“I knew he was a nice guy,” Snowden-McCray said. “I didn’t know he had access to a million dollars. The money was a complete shock to me.”

Reportedly, the million dollar donation to the Beat would clear out almost every cent Holofcener’s family foundation had left, essentially putting the organization out of business.

“It was very important that not only were we giving all the money away but that we were losing the money,” Holofcener said. “It’s as important to disempower ourselves as it is to empower them.”

“Among the next generation of family philanthropy, we see more of a willingness to embrace risk and to move away from a posture of waiting for guaranteed results,” he added.

“We wanted to give Black writers the opportunities to tell their own stories,” Snowden-McCray wrote in the Beat’s relaunch letter, reiterating the goals of the paper. “We wanted to help add depth to the stories that are told about Baltimore. We wanted to make a paper that reflected the joys — the art created here, the celebrations held here, the lives lived here — and sadness of the city.”

“Everybody wants everything fast,” she says. “But I think slow cooking it will ultimately help us last.”

The newspaper has raised an additional $250,000 since the Holofcener donation.

Baltimore Beat announced the return of its Black-led, Black-controlled nonprofit newspaper and online outlet in May 2022.

To help keep the Beat going, supporters can send in donations to the publication.