David Swensen, the chief investment officer at Yale, writes in the New York Times in support of the newspaper as a non-profit institute.
His argument is manifold: it would liberate papers from their challenged business models, provide tax advantages to encourage public participation in their financing, ensure the transition to digital is more survivable, and insulate journalists from the pressures of advertisers and stockholders.
The real challenge is the amount of money raised. To run the New York Times editorial operation alone, $5 billion in endowments would be required. (The op-ed piece from Swensen seems only to deal with newsgathering expenses, which of course are not anywhere near the operating costs of a news operation.)
As uncomfortable as many journalists are in the philanthropic model, particularly when a small number of supporters are involved, in the U.S. the idea is taking root.