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Frantic newsbreaks, fake and real. A relentless pace of events in Delhi, routine and special. A play of power and access, dangerous and demeaning. Established conglomerates giving well-funded unicorns a dash of their own disruption medicine. You’d agree, there never was a better time to be a journalist. Except journalism itself is collapsing.

The Ken was started in such turbulent times. As we take baby steps, we are delighted to announce that we have been supported by a financial grant from the Independent and Public Spirited Media Foundation. A public charitable trust, IPSMF was founded in July 2015 with ‘an objective of increasing awareness on issues of public interest with the help of various media platforms’.

As business models of traditional news publishing have been sinking, philanthropy in journalism has been rising, across the world. A lot of that funding has gone into nonprofit newsrooms. So, when we learnt that we’ve received the grant, we were doubly thrilled. It was also an assertion of our belief that news organisations need a profit motive to be self-reliant. The history of news publishing, from the Sulzberger family in New York to the Goenka family in New Delhi, shows that earned profit is journalism’s bulwark. The Board of IPSMF appreciated that. The Ken is a subscription-based publication and set up as a for-profit business.

I’ve been a beneficiary of two grants from two Foundations—Knight and MacArthur. So, I can speak from personal experience as well. These grants give just that little space you need to spread your wings, that little rush of confidence you need to be adventurous. At The Ken, we believe, it’s like that little crevice that a rock climber needs during a tough climb. And a tough climb it is to practice independent journalism today. According to report after report, trust in media is falling dangerously. It’ll require all it takes to defend the role of the media to an increasingly disbelieving readership.

Theoretical physicist and bestselling author from Columbia University, Brian Greene in an essay asked, rhetorically, “Could there be another Einstein?” His answer, in summary, was: If science doesn’t produce another Einstein, it’s the nonscientists’ fault (“to what we as a civilization will deem precious”).

Could we imply something similar for the media? Sure, we can. If we are not producing great journalism, it is also the non-journalists’ fault.

Which is why we are grateful for institutions like the IPSMF. Because there are stories that must be told, whether they get advertisers or not, whether they get page views or not, whether they get social media buzz or not, and whether they get subscribers or not. Support from such institutions provides resources to delay, or reject, near-term rewards for enduring success.


Seema Singh

Seema has over two decades of experience in journalism. Before starting The Ken, Seema wrote “Myth Breaker: Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw and the Story of Indian Biotech”, published by HarperCollins in May 2016. Prior to that, she was a senior editor and bureau chief for Bangalore with Forbes India, and before that she wrote for Mint. Seema has written for numerous international publications like IEEE-Spectrum, New Scientist, Cell and Newsweek. Seema is a Knight Science Journalism Fellow from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a MacArthur Foundation Research Grantee.

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