Nonprofit News Organizations in Ascendancy

We’ve been talking a lot over the past year about nonprofit centers for news.  Columbia Journalism Review posits that these nonprofits are moving into a core role in investigative journalism.  ProPublica’s winning of a Pulitzer last month may have been the first indication that the tide is shifting. As newspapers cut back staff, and continue to watch their spending, conducting a six-month long project is not always feasible.  Nick Penniman, executive director and co-founder of The Huffington Post Investigative Fund thinks that while the public acknowledge that primacy of the newspaper as a “watchdog”, “it’s very difficult from a profit perspective to see the value of sinking millions into investigative reporting.” And the deputy managing editor for projects at the LA Times, Marc Duvoisin thinks that up to 40% of investigative reporting will be done by donor-sustained organizations. Still, it’s a pretty new phenomenon on a widespread level, and the news business continues to be in business model upheaval, so it’s pretty hard to envision how it will all shake out. It’s a pretty good bet that at least some of this work will be taken over by nonprofits, but the main question is, how will they manage to sustain themselves? And another question is, of course, how beholden will these nonprofits be to their donors – and can that influence the objective stance of their journalism?  Different nonprofits have different operating models, distribution platforms, and plans for revenue, and if nothing else, this deserves to be watched pretty closely as time goes on.

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