MIAMI -- A Miami family is pledging $2.5 million to help fund investigative journalism in South Florida.
Ron and Charlene Esserman established The Esserman Family Fund for Investigative Journalism at the Miami Foundation on Monday, the Miami Herald reported.
The family's gift, along with contributions from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, will help fund an annual top prize of $10,000 and two $1,000 honorable mention prizes for South Florida's “best accountability” reporting. The gift will also support a $50,000 annual, yearlong investigative reporting fellowship for young reporters at the Herald.
“We are extremely grateful for the generosity of the Esserman family and their commitment to the critical role of local journalism,” said Aminda Marqués González, Miami Herald publisher, president and executive editor. “Thanks to their gift, we will be adding the first reporter for our Investigative Journalism Lab, expanding accountability reporting of underserved pockets in our community.”
The newspaper announced in October a partnership with the Miami Foundation to launch a Miami Herald Investigative Journalism Fund that will boost its current five-member investigative team.
The Esserman family, which owns numerous car dealerships, has had a long philanthropic relationship with South Florida after moving to Miami from Chicago in 1968.
Many of their donations have gone to the arts, including Zoo Miami, the Deering Estate Foundation, Miami City Ballet, the Florida Grand Opera and the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Miami.
“Music has been a part of all of our lives. All of our children are musicians.” Charlene Esserman told the newspaper.
But the Essermans said they recognize that the free press is imperiled because journalism has come under attack. They hope the endowment will help attract young investigative journalists to South Florida.
“I think this is more important now than ever with what is going on in the world for journalists,” Esserman said. “The future of local journalism is in peril. We need the free press to focus on accountability, and that is how journalism plays such a crucial role. So many of these journalists are courageous and come up against many difficult issues exposing injustice and corruption."