The Boston Globe has received a $750,000 grant from The Barr Foundation to launch an ambitious initiative to deepen the paper’s coverage of the racial wealth gap in Greater Boston and how to address it, Globe editor Brian McGrory announced Wednesday.
With the grant, the Globe will build upon its 2017 Spotlight series “Boston. Racism. Image. Reality,” a 2018 Pulitzer finalist in local reporting that explored Boston’s reputation as a racist city and sought to answer how racism, wealth, and power inequities persist in daily life.
“The intent is to set a team of elite journalists free on one of the most vexing issues in this region and in America: The racial wealth gap,” McGrory said. “We want to explore how it happened, the profound impact that it has on everyday life, and provocatively look at how it can and should be addressed.”
In an e-mail to staff, McGrory said the Globe has long made inequality a focus, which he considers “a mandate” for the organization “because Boston is one of the most unequal places on the planet.”
“The gap has been pondered in plenty of deeply researched white papers that sit on high shelves,” McGrory said. “We intend to bring it to life, vividly exposing its consequences and rigorously exploring solutions. In short, we’ll look at how we got to a place where the average Black family has a net worth of $8 and white families have $247,000, and how do we get out.”
Funding from The Barr Foundation, a Boston nonprofit that aims to “invest in human, natural, and creative potential,” was provided to the Globe with the goal to “elevate and amplify stories, research, and data about racial wealth equity in Greater Boston,” according to the foundation.
The Globe is seeking an editor to lead the initiative and later will hire additional journalists. The editor search will be led by the Globe’s metro editor, Anica Butler, business columnist Shirley Leung, and Jeneé Osterheldt, culture columnist and senior assistant managing editor for culture, talent, and development.
Despite The Barr Foundation’s funding, the Globe will have complete editorial control over the initiative. The team will operate similarly to The Great Divide, a team of Globe journalists focused on investigating race, class, and inequality in Boston-area schools, and that is also partially funded by Barr.
Jim Canales, president of The Barr Foundation, said the grant for the wealth gap team was a product of a longstanding partnership with The Globe.
“We’ve had an existing relationship with [The Globe] in terms of partnering on efforts of shared interests,” Canales said in a phone interview. “This, in part, represents a commitment based on the strength of that relationship and the quality of the work that has been done.”
The Barr Foundation’s latest grant to the Globe is part of a larger initiative the nonprofit launched in June to address the racial wealth gap in Greater Boston.
During 2022, the foundation invested nearly $15 million to $20 million in leaders and organizations advancing racial equity, to expand research on the root cause of the racial wealth gap, and to explore “the role of narrative efforts to expand understanding of multiple perspectives and support space for community dialogue,” according to its website. Other entities that received grants as part of the initiative include Black Economic Council of Massachusetts, Boston Ujima Project, King Boston, and Lawyers for Civil Rights.
Canales said the foundation enthusiastically supports the Globe’s reporting initiative as part of the effort.
“By creating a dedicated team focused on journalism that will elevate and amplify stories, research, and data,” Canales said in a statement, “the Globe will support a larger, community-wide dialogue about the obstacles and solutions to racial wealth equity.”
Globe correspondent Jeremy C. Fox contributed to this report.