After 30 years at the New York Times, including the better
part of a decade at the top of the masthead, Bill Keller decided it was
time to start again from scratch. His new undertaking, forthcoming this
fall, is a nonprofit journalism start-up focused on the American
criminal justice system — seemingly a niche topic, but perhaps not in
the most incarcerated nation on earth. The dream of reporter-cum-hedge
fund manager (and Koch director) Neil Barsky, the Marshall Project,
named for civil rights attorney and Supreme Court justice Thurgood
Marshall, will run on about $5 million per year in philanthropy. Keller,
then, is its public face, its pitchman, and the old-media center of its
journalistic creditability. He’s also the editor-in-chief.
The newsroom veteran spoke to Intelligencer before the holiday
weekend — ahead of lunch with a potential donor — about prepping for
launch, the site’s grand plans (to affect the 2016 presidential
election), his new digital brethren, and the big ship he left behind.