The Seattle Times creates dedicated mental health reporting team with Ballmer Group funding

For Immediate Release — Jun. 9, 2021
Lindsay Taylor, Consumer Marketing Manager

SEATTLE — The Seattle Times will create a two-year reporting project devoted to behavioral and mental health issues.

The project is funded by Ballmer Group, the philanthropic work of Steve and Connie Ballmer. Steve Ballmer is the former CEO of Microsoft. Ballmer Group is a national philanthropy, with deep commitments in Washington state, Los Angeles County and Southeast Michigan to improve economic mobility for children and families who are disproportionately likely to remain in poverty.

Ballmer Group will invest more than $1.1 million in support of The Seattle Times’ behavioral and mental health journalism project. The commitment aligns with Ballmer Group’s recently announced $38 million in funding to the University of Washington, Washington Council for Behavioral Health, the Health Care Authority and Washington State Opportunity Scholarship to improve programs and workforce training for behavioral health professionals, and to increase the number of diverse, highly qualified practitioners in Washington’s behavioral health system.

“Ballmer Group is excited to align our commitment to building Washington’s behavioral health workforce with this investment in local journalism to increase public awareness and information about the issue,” said Andi Smith, executive director of Ballmer Group’s Washington state work. “There is a need to explore stories that destigmatize behavioral health and help us better understand how it impacts our communities. We are glad to support The Seattle Times, which has a history of creating impact and surfacing better practices and solutions in our systems of care.”

The dedicated project will have an editor, two reporters and an engagement editor, with support from photography, video and graphics teams. The Seattle Times will have complete editorial control over the project to maintain its independence. Readers will begin to see coverage in September.

The Seattle Times has been a national leader and model for other journalism organizations in developing community funding for public-service journalism. With this project, community funding will support more than 20 positions in The Seattle Times newsroom. This new mental health effort builds upon The Seattle Times’ successful community-funded journalism projects, Education Lab, Traffic Lab, Project Homeless and the Investigative Journalism Fund.

"Mental health touches individuals and families across all socio-economic sectors. The Seattle Times will use solutions journalism to highlight where the problems exist and what possible solutions are. Ballmer Group’s grant to the University of Washington, which targets building a pipeline to fill the large void in the number of mental health providers needed, underscores its commitment to finding such solutions. We are delighted that Ballmer Group is investing in groundbreaking, dedicated coverage of a crisis that is so urgent in our region,” said Seattle Times Publisher Frank Blethen.

"Mental health issues are critically important — maybe now more than ever — and they intersect with many subjects we already cover, such as schools, social services and the legal system. With this team, we'll be able to dive more deeply into all these areas and shed light on a huge challenge facing society," said Michele Matassa Flores, executive editor of The Seattle Times.

The Seattle Times serves the Northwest with independent, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism, as the region’s most trusted news media company, dedicated to public service. The Seattle Times is the most-visited digital information source in Washington state and the second-largest newspaper on the West Coast. Founded in 1896 by Alden J. Blethen, The Seattle Times is now led by the Blethen family’s fourth and fifth generations, whose stewardship also includes the Yakima Herald-Republic and The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin.