The Curious Incident of NonProfit Journalism

One of the models trending in recent years is nonprofit journalism. This model acknowledges the important social role of the press and the social service it fulfills and invites the public to support one of the most important pillars of democracy via donations.

Nonprofit journalism, which joins together philanthropy and mass media (my two favorite subjects!), operates media outlets for the public good, as nonprofit organizations rather than for-profit businesses. It can utilize any type of mass media outlets, such as newspapers, TV stations, or radio stations.

Like their for-profit counterparts, nonprofit journalists also need external funding to operate their organizations. However, nonprofit media outlets mainly depend on private donations and grants from philanthropic foundations, which pay for salaries and other operational expenses.

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Nonprofit media outlets mainly depend on private donations and grants from philanthropic foundations. Any profits are invested in the community or devoted to internal development.

Any profits are invested in the community or devoted to internal development. For example, a station might invest internally in hiring and training journalists to cover unique and often neglected social issues or invest externally in school programs designed to educate teens about the importance of free speech and the freedom of the press.

The first wave of nonprofit news startups began around 2005, and they proliferated as the newspaper industry contracted and jobless journalists looked for new ways to stay in the game.

The Institute for Nonprofit News, founded in 2009 to promote collaboration among these groups, has over 120 members. In 2013, a Pew Research Center study found that there were 172 active online non-profit news outlets based in the US, all of which were founded between 1987 and April 2012.

Here and here are some examples of useful non-profit news outlet guides. CJR’s chart specifically explains which foundations donate to journalism non-profits. It is a clear view of the active, dedicated, and influential philanthropic actors in today’s non-profit media market. Much can be learned about the donors’ important role in advancing the freedom of the press and free speech, as well as these media outlets’ social role.

One interesting case is The Frontier, a local newspaper in Tulsa devoted to enterprise and investigative reporting, which recently changed to a non-profit business model. The paper, which is now accepting donations from readers and foundations, is developing local journalism and playing an important role in its community. However, it faces regular challenges with staying active and visible.

The Columbia Journalism Review perfectly describes The Frontier’s efforts and the important role that foundations play in developing contemporary non-profit journalism.

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