The Mission, the Impact, and the Money | A Report on Year 1

Although the Bayou Brief is a young publication, we were built by a small group of professional and experienced journalists, writers, and advocates who each possess a deep institutional knowledge about Louisiana. We are a team of subject-matter experts all motivated by a belief in the critical need for a free and fearless press, one that is unrestrained and not beholden to the agendas of big business or those in positions of corporate or political power.

We are a 501(c)(4) nonprofit entirely funded by individual members and through the financial contributions of nonprofit and foundational organizations who share our values and understand the importance of a more informed public. We do not publish advertisements or sponsored content. Our reporting is not obscured behind paywalls and is offered at no cost to readers.

And this is also true.

These findings are based on a multi-factorial, proprietary analysis of the web traffic, reach, and visibility of more than a dozen of Louisiana’s most well-known news publications, applying data collected on 95 different keywords (i.e. DeSoto Parish, Jeff Landry, Ralph Abraham) on an aggregate level (statewide) and on all seven of the state’s major media markets. To be clear, “readers” only applies to a publication’s online audience.

As a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, we are legally required to disclose our finances to the public in a 990 report to the IRS within two years of our initial incorporation. As soon as our report is filed, we will make it easy for all of our readers: We will publish the full report right here.

We also understand and believe in our ethical duty to demonstrate that we are fully complying with the laws that govern tax-exempt organizations, and we know our contributors and readers will recognize the value of their support. Suffice it to say, we are operating on a shoe-string. The Bayou Brief is a nonprofit, but we are not a charity. We are a social welfare organization.

Our Choice

Early on, we made the decision to incorporate as a 501(c)(4) and not a 501(c)(3) for a number of reasons, recognizing that, in doing so, donations cannot be declared as tax-deductible and that it may prevent us from applying for certain grant opportunities. However, we understood the trade-off: As a social welfare organization, we would be less constrained about political advocacy, and given the state’s toxic partisan environment, we also recognized that our editorial independence was sacrosanct. There was another practical concern: As a publication that seeks to speak truth to power, we knew the importance of protecting the privacy of our supporters. We could have easily incorporated as a for-profit entity, and just like every other news organization in Louisiana, with the exception of The Lens in New Orleans, a 501(c)(3), we would have also been under no obligation to disclose the names and addresses of those who pay for a subscription. But we are not motivated by a desire to maximize profits; we merely want to share our investigative reporting, at no charge, to the public.

Our report will show the following: All told, we have earned less than $80,000 a year. Our publisher earns less than any other similarly-situated nonprofit executive, and, in fact, initially launched the Bayou Brief with his own savings. You will also learn that our all of reporters do not earn the money they deserve; they are contributors because they share our values, and they love their work. We have spent money on technology, software,  travel costs, subscription services, legal fees, public records, sponsorships, and promotions on Facebook. We have very little overhead; we operate from a home office. We typically maintain between $10,000 to $20,000 in cash reserves. Our board members are not compensated.

Assuming our donors maintain their commitments, the Bayou Brief could continue to operate just as we do today. But we believe- and the data demonstrates- that we could create a much more innovative and robust publication, a publication that Louisiana and the Deep South needs now more than ever by aggressively pursuing large-scale, multi-year funding.

This year, that is precisely what we intend to do. When the nonprofit news organization focused on New Orleans first launched, they immediately and deservedly attracted more than $700,000 in funding. That is a lofty goal, of course, but we will do everything we can to ensure we have the long-term funding required to ramp up our investments in journalists all across the state. We believe we have made the case for the Bayou Brief, and with your continued support, there is only one direction: Up.

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Lamar White, Jr.
Lamar writes about the people, the politics, and the magic of Louisiana. He is the founder and publisher of the Bayou Brief and a contributing writer for the Daily Beast. Lamar is best known for his investigative reporting on public corruption, racism, and civil rights. He has appeared as a guest on CNN, MSNBC, and the BBC, and he's been the subject of profiles in The Washington Post, The Advocate, and Huffington Post. Before launching the Bayou Brief, he published CenLamar, a popular blog that initially covered the drama of City Hall in his hometown of Alexandria. Lamar is a graduate of Rice University in Houston and the Dedman School of Law at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Today he lives in New Orleans and is currently writing a book about the life of reputed New Orleans Mafia boss Carlos Marcello. Support Lamar's work on Patreon.