Marshall Project Founder Neil Barsky Is Stepping Down

A former hedge fund manager, Mr. Barsky led the nonprofit news organization to two Pulitzer Prizes in seven years.,


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Neil Barsky said on Thursday that he would step down as chairman of the Marshall Project, the nonprofit investigative news organization he founded in 2014 that focuses on inequities in the American criminal justice system.

In Mr. Barsky’s seven years at the helm, the outlet won two Pulitzer Prizes, including this year’s prize for national reporting, and expanded to 54 employees and a budget of nearly $12 million, while offering a template for sustainable nonprofit journalism.

A former financial journalist who made his fortune as a hedge fund manager, Mr. Barsky is now set to pursue a new investment venture that would support and provide capital to female and minority asset managers. He said in an interview that he wanted the new group to “embrace the ideals of a multiracial democracy” while earning some money, too.

His departure is in some ways a mark of maturity for the Marshall Project, which has punched above its weight as a producer of high-impact journalism. Its investigations exposed, among other subjects, an epidemic of attacks by police dogs and a botched investigation of a rape in Washington State, which won the 2016 Pulitzer for explanatory reporting.

Pulitzers were “not the goal, but it’s a great thing to achieve,” Mr. Barsky said. “We achieved journalistic credibility much quicker than I could have imagined.”

Liz Simons, a philanthropist and an advocate for criminal justice reform, will succeed Mr. Barsky as chair of the Marshall Project. Carroll Bogert will remain president, with oversight of business affairs. Its newsroom will continue to be led by Susan Chira, a former editor and correspondent at The New York Times.

Mr. Barsky’s exit “doesn’t change our foundational way of being,” Ms. Chira said. “Philanthropically supported nonprofit journalism is a way to help address the crisis where local newsrooms are gutted and there are diminished resources to do accountability reporting.”

In the interview, Mr. Barsky said he was leaving in part so that he could be more outspoken on political and policy matters. He said he had felt “mildly constrained” as the leader of a journalistic outlet, which he wanted to remain impartial and nonpartisan.

He said his focus had recently shifted toward “the cowardice of the business community, particularly the financial community, to stand up against threats to our democracy and our ideals.” The field of money management, he said, is overdue for a reckoning on diversity and inclusion, and he wants his new fund to benefit “vast talent out there that has been lacking for capital.”

In a letter to his staff on Thursday, Mr. Barsky said the organization was “in superb hands” and declared its mission unfinished. “It is worth reminding ourselves that the American criminal justice system remains a national disgrace,” he wrote. He also urged his employees to “never lose our sense of outrage,” even as he emphasized a belief that the power of journalism stemmed from a public perception of independence.

“The public’s skepticism about the media has never been greater,” he wrote. “The miracle potion of the Marshall Project is that we are truth-seekers and storytellers. This is our franchise, and once lost, is very difficult to recover.”

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