While his former colleagues at the Wall Street Journal deal with the reverb from News Corp’s (NYSE: NWS) acquisition of Dow Jones, long-time WSJ managing editor Paul Steiger has been crafting a new journalism venture that went live today: ProPublica, “an independent, non-profit newsroom that will produce investigative journalism in the public interest.” (Disclosure: Our colleague Elizabeth Osder was involved in the launch as internet media consultant.) The ambitious plan includes Steiger as editor-in-chief, president and CEO, Steve Engelberg as managing editor and roughly two dozen reporters, researchers and others in what is billed carefully as “we believe … the largest such staff at any news organization in this country.”

Set against the backdrop of the changing news emphasis at other publications and the budget cutting, ProPublica proposes to be a news source for other media outlets with plans that calls for offering its investigative reports as exclusives free of charge before publishing on its own site. The risk, of course, is that ProPublica, which plans to highlight other reporting as well, could become an excuse for publishers and editors not to support investigative reporting at their own outlets. ProPublica is funded by the Sandler Foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies, the JEHT Foundation, and The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.