Philly-based journo helper DocumentCloud is merging with MuckRock - Technical.ly Philly

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Jun. 12, 2018 8:08 am

Philly-based journo helper DocumentCloud is merging with MuckRock

The two nonprofits have already been working together since January. “This builds a foundation from which to launch many wonderful journalism tools,” said DocumentCloud founder and Temple University professor Aron Pilhofer.

The merger aims to make several services available under one platform.

(Photo by Flickr user Isaac Bowen, used under a Creative Commons license)

Philly-based DocumentCloud, makers of a document-hosting and annotating tool for reporters, announced Monday its merger with Cambridge, Mass.-based MuckRock, creators of a tool to file and track public records requests.

Both journalism-focused 501 (c)3 nonprofits have been working together since January, though for the time being they will each retain their own name and branding. The goal of the merger is to provide both entities with a path towards joint financial sustainability, DocumentCloud founder Aron Pilhofer told Technical.ly.

“Both organizations got recent infusions of support through grants and fundraising,” Pilhofer said. “That in part is why we’re doing this now, when both organizations have maximum runway and flexibility and not when either organization is in a state of desperation.”

Sustainability, the Temple University professor said, has been elusive for DocumentCloud, as it strives to provide its services to an increasingly cash-strapped industry. MuckRock, itself on the search for sustainability since becoming a nonprofit in 2016, has a revenue strategy in place which will make it easier and faster for DocumentCloud to deploy a business model that ensures its long-term survival.

(Note: Don’t confuse MuckRock with Muck Rack, the New York-based PR software company.)

Conversations are still ongoing, but the team is leaning towards offering a one-price, one-product platform that lets reporters and teams at media outlets have access to a suite of services that includes FOIA Machine, Quackbot, MuckRock and DocumentCloud, the latter of which hosts over 3.6 million documents by some 8,400 reporters from 1,600 news outlets.

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Philly-based DocumentCloud’s staff of two part-timers plus Pilhofer (who said he doesn’t take any salary) and MuckRock’s team of five in Massachusetts will stay put, with a full-time developer joining DocumentCloud in July as director of technology.

Pilhofer, who cofounded DocumentCloud with ProPublica’s Eric Umansky and Scott Klein, said he’s most excited about the technical potential of the combined organizations.

“This builds a foundation from which to launch many wonderful journalism tools,” Pilhofer said. “Over time, this will become one of many tools we can offer in the transparency space. It puts us both in the best position to succeed and it’s where the industry has to go.”

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