Lebedevs to close Journalism Foundation less than a year after launch

A journalism charity backed by the Lebedev family is being shut down less than a year after it was launched.

The Journalism Foundation opened in December in the wake of the hacking scandal with a commitment to “develop and sustain free and ethical journalism”, led by former the former editor-in-chief of The Independent, Simon Kelner.

But the charity said had found it “very difficult” to raise outside funding in the current economic climate after an initial outlay of around £600,000 from the Lebedevs, owners of the Independent and Evening Standard titles.

A spokesman insisted the amount of money donated to journalistic charities would, however, remain “unaffected” by the close.

“It is with great regret that we are taking this decision to close the Journalism Foundation,” said the spokesman.

“Sadly, in a time of economic crisis it proved very difficult to raise the external funds that we had hoped to raise.

“This meant that the structure was not the most effective way deploying the donations, so we have taken the decision to invest directly into journalistic projects through the Lebedev Foundation.

“It can be assured that the Lebedevs’ charitable donations will continue unaffected but through this more cost-effective route.”

The charity was launched on 5 December with financial support for projects in Tunisia and Stoke-on-Trent.

It had a full-time staff of four, including Kelner, former Independent managing editor Charlie Burgess, a website editor and an administrative assistant.

The foundation’s Mayfair headquarters is to be closed and all four staff are being laid off.

In an interview with Press Gazette on the day of its launch, Kelner said the charity’s arrival “couldn't be more timely” in the wake of the hacking scandal.

He said: “The Leveson Inquiry thus far has presented a picture of British journalism which is sullied by skulduggery and sharp practice. What we aim to show through the foundation is that journalism can be and is a force for good.

"The aim was for the foundation to support “initiatives that have a direct and positive effect on people's lives and which can self-sustaining after initial support”.

It partnered with City University journalism department to establish journalism training courses in Tunisia and also provided support for www.pitsnpots.co.uk, a website set up to cover local politics in Stoke-on-Trent.

Evgeny Lebedev was chairman of trustees for the charity. Other trustees included human rights lawyer Baroness Kennedy, former chairman of the House of Commons media select committee Lord Fowler and former director general of the BBC World Service Sir John Tusa.

In May the foundation held a gala dinner to raise funds for its work called “A Priceless Evening” hosted by broadcaster Richard Bacon.

It was intended to raise funds for projects including the establishment of a new college of journalism in Tunisia and a programme to train young journalists in South Sudan.

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