July 9, 2020; Lifehacker
For anyone who took on the task of trying to peruse the information released by the Small Business Administration and the Department of the Treasury the day before yesterday, detailing all those who have thus far received Paycheck Protection Program loans above $150,000, you will be glad to hear that ProPublica has made quick work of developing a tool that makes the list easily searchable by organization, lender, ZIP code, and business type.
Of course, this is something the government could have done, but considering their foot-dragging behavior on making any form of the list public, that extra transparency step was unlikely to be taken. Instead, the government waited for ProPublica, Bloomberg, and the Dow Jones to sue them. They then reverted to a list format on Excel that looked and acted like it was a quarter-century old.
Readers will perhaps remember that SBA has a history with technological failures that goes back a good way, but this particular display even defies any assumption of incompetent good faith.
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In any case, ProPublica, which did not receive a PPP loan of its own, has lost no time in uncovering the stories hiding in even the vague data contained on the list. And while ProPublica did not receive a loan, other journalism outlets did, and for good reason— many news organizations, already on shaky financial ground, have been in an odd place throughout this pandemic. Even as their readership has skyrocketed with readers seeking information of all kinds to stay informed, their advertising dollars have plummeted.
Larger corporate owners of multiple large local papers were already laying off or furloughing staff before the virus hit in an attempt to extract every penny of profit from these badly needed civic entities, so the pandemic simply accelerated the process. But for those smaller newsrooms for which news, not profitmaking, is the bottom line, the PPP loans came in many cases at a time when quick decisions had to be made to stanch the bleeding. These smaller shops were able to avail themselves of the loans, which were, after all, meant to support small businesses with fewer than 500 employees.
The list of media organizations that received PPP loans runs the gamut in terms of political point of view. Among them were the Seattle Times, which received $9.9 million; the Tampa Bay Times, which received $8.5 million; and the Texas Tribune, which got just over a million. In all, 75 publishers got loans of $1 million, but many smaller loans went to organizations like the Chattanooga Free Press in Tennessee, the Daily Herald in Chicago, and the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette—even NPQ.—Ruth McCambridge
Disclosure: NPQ received a PPP loan in the amount of $202,432.56.