Oct 19, 2021 - Economy

Scoop: James and Kathryn Murdoch's next media investment

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

James and Kathryn Murdoch are nearing a deal to make a multi-million dollar investment to support the formation of a new climate reporting hub at the Associated Press, two sources familiar with the deal tell Axios.

Why it matters: The duo has increased their investments in media projects in the past few years via their non-profit organization called Quadrivium Foundation.

  • The foundation was launched in 2014 to fund groups focused on the advancement of "democracy," "technology and society," "scientific understanding," "climate change" and "ocean health."
  • James Murdoch is the former CEO of 21st Century Fox and the youngest son of media mogul Rupert Murdoch. He resigned from the board of News Corp. last year, citing disagreements with the editorial content published by the company, which is home to The Wall Street Journal and other publications.

Details: The new hub will employ roughly 20 journalists, and will be backed by multiple donors, sources tell Axios.

  • It will support the AP's existing climate reporting efforts. The outlet is already working with several foundations, including the Rockefeller Foundation, Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) and Walton Family Foundation, to fund climate and environment coverage.
  • As a part of its standards protocol, the AP says it always maintains editorial independence when working with such partners.

The big picture: Kathryn and James Murdoch have increased their investments in media companies in recent years via Quadrivium Foundation. The donation to the AP will likely be one of their more sizable media investments to-date.

  • The pair donated $5 million to the American Journalism Project in September to support local news.
  • It funds a non-profit led by conservatives called Defending Democracy Together, which publishes The Bulwark, a center-right news site founded in 2018 in opposition to Trumpism.
  • Quadrivium also backs SciLine, a nonpartisan, nonprofit service for journalists and scientists focused on science news. Kathryn Murdoch sits on SciLine's board. The outlet was launched in 2017 as a program within the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
  • Quadrivium was a founding donor for The 19th, a nonprofit newsroom focused on covering the intersection of gender, politics and policy. Kathryn Murdoch sits on its board.

Between the lines: While the investments are made of behalf of the Quadrivium Foundation, Kathryn Murdoch often takes on a leadership role.

  • One source whose media company is funded by the Quadrivium Foundation says Kathryn Murdoch is "not an interventionist, but she pays attention. ... She does not try to micro-manage."
  • James Murdoch has made several media investments in companies like Vice Media and Morning Consult through his investment firm Lupa Systems, which he founded in 2019.
  • In recent years, James and Kathryn Murdoch have distanced themselves from the Murdoch empire, investing in candidates and causes across the political spectrum.

What to watch: More news companies are looking for ways to have non-profits fund specialized projects or research.

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