About 120 readers and Seattle Times staff attended the launch event for The Seattle Times Investigative Journalism Fund on Thursday, an innovative community-funded initiative with the Seattle Foundation to support investigative journalism.

During the event, Seattle Times reporters Jim Brunner and Lewis Kamb discussed how their 2017 investigation into child sexual-abuse allegations against then-Seattle Mayor Ed Murray came together. The discussion highlighted the kind of in-depth, watchdog journalism the new fund would support at The Times.

The Times is aiming to ensure the future of local investigative journalism and protect and expand the ambitious, rigorously reported work that is critical to a healthy democracy by seeking out community funders and personal champions of a free press.

The Investigative Journalism Fund builds on the success of three community-funded initiatives covering education, transportation and homelessness — Education Lab, Project Homeless and Traffic Lab — but is the first to seek funding from readers. Thursday’s event raised about $26,000.

“We are excited to invite you, the individual supporter, to build a stronger democracy by expanding journalism in Seattle even as newsrooms across America are shrinking,” said Sharon Pian Chan, The Times’ vice president of innovation, product and development. “We want you as partners in building a community-powered journalism model for the rest of the nation.”

In-depth investigations have helped earn The Seattle Times 10 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other news organization in the Northwest. The Times is one of the few remaining independent, locally owned news media organizations in the U.S.

“Investigative and watchdog journalism is in our DNA at The Seattle Times,” Executive Editor Don Shelton said. “We are committed to it, and the Investigative Journalism Fund will allow us to do much more accountability journalism in every part of our newsroom. It will be a huge win for readers and our region.”

The launch was the first in a series of fundraising events planned this year. The Phase 1 goal is to raise $500,000. To find out more about the Investigative Journalism Fund or to make a tax-deductible donation go to seattletimes.com/investigativefund