Non-profit news: the new journalism

November 18, 2008 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: writing.

The New York Times has an article this morning on non-profit journalism — an idea that has been around for a while. In fact, the Christian Science Monitor had a similar article, spotlighting the VoiceofSanDiego as the Times article did, back in February.

There are also articles in the Columbia Journalism Review, American Journalism Review, and elsewhere.

The basic idea is that a foundation or wealthy, public spirited individual puts up the money to fund journalistic efforts of one type or another. Sometimes, as the Times article points out, these efforts are locally based as in San Diego, Minnesota, Chicago and St. Louis.

Sometimes they are national, such as ProPublica or the Center for Investigative Reporting.

These organizations are most likely to use the web for the publishing and distribution of their products.

There are legitimate independence issues that can be raised about these efforts. What are the motivations of those who put up the money? Do they try to influence the journalism that is being produced?

But the fact that these questions can be raised do not make these efforts or organizations unworthy. Far from it. They can offer a valuable service to the public in an age when traditional media are abandoning their journalistic roles. They can offer outlets and employment, even if it is only temporary, to budding young journalists who understand the web and social networking far more intuitively some older folk.

In fact, ultimately the strength and staying power of these non-profit organizations will be in the people they hire rather than the journalism they produce. That’s an idea that I want to develop in a later post.

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