The New Journalism Ecosystem: How Far We Have Come?

Recently, Charles Lewis, executive editor of the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University School of Communication, posted an updated report, “A second look: The new Journalism Ecosystem,” on the current nonprofit journalism industry in the United States.

The Hub takes a moment to examine the latest trends in this report of the 75 nonprofit journalism organizations that now make up the new journalism ecosystem.

Major Findings
Since last year, Lewis and his team have found some similarities and many differences in the nonprofit journalism sector. The major highlights from this year’s report include:
• The journalism ecosystem includes 15 new organizations this year.
• One organization has dropped out of the list because it ceased operation last year, Capitol News Connection which was founded in 2003.
• Ten organizations report they have annual budgets of less than $100,000 but Lewis and his team believe there may be more organizations that have this kind of situation since not every organization reported budget information.
• The majority of the nonprofits in the new ecosystem are INN members (61 of the 75).
• About 22.6% of the organizations are affiliated with a university.
• A majority (85%) of the organizations are now disclosing donor information on their websites.

The Hub Highlights Other Trends
Last year, the Hub examined the news organizations’ profiles to find some other key differences between the nonprofits. There are some other interesting points I would like to mention in reviewing the organizations’ profiles from this year’s report:

Nonprofit organizations are mainly located on the west and east coasts. As identified in last year’s analysis, the majority of the organizations remain located on the west and east coasts. Thirteen organizations are located in Washington D.C., 12 are located in California and eight are located in New York. The remaining 42 organizations are dispersed throughout the country.

Full-time staffing remains lean. Thirty-seven percent of the organizations have between 2-5 people on staff, 28% have more than 11 employees, 15% have 6-10 people on staff, 12% have 1 person working for the organization and 8% have no full-time staff.

The majority of nonprofits started in the past five years. Of the 75 organizations, 61% started within the past five years. The oldest nonprofit journalism organization on the list is the Christian Science Monitor, which began in 1908. Nonprofits like Consumer Reports (1936), The Texas Observer (1954), The Alicia Patterson Foundation (1965), The Fund for Investigative Journalism (1969), High Country News (1970), The Chicago Reporter (1972), City Limits (1976), Mother Jones (1976), and the Center for Investigative Reporting (1977), round out the list of organizations who have been around for 30 years or longer.

New faces for 2011. Four new organizations began their operations this year which include 100 Reporters, Aspen Journalism, the Chicago Innocence Project, and InvestigateNY.

As the report shows, there are many new organizations in the journalism ecosystem from the year prior, which demonstrates the growth and potential the industry has and how it will evolve in the coming decade. In addition, a lot of this growth has only occurred in the past five years. The majority of the nonprofits are located on the coasts, but this year the list also shows how geographically dispersed the organizations are with locations as far north as Washington and as south as Texas and Florida.

In addition, the report shows the majority of the organizations have very few people on staff. They must meet journalistic goals with a lean operation. Finding funding and identifying revenue streams remain a challenge as well for the nonprofit news organization. Lewis and his team identified that several organizations are finding new ways to do this through website advertising, ebooks, and content partnerships. This means that nonprofit journalism organizations must think differently and creatively about their sustainability.

In conclusion, the new journalism ecosystem that Lewis and his team have captured in the report demonstrates the nonprofit journalism sector has come a long way and there is still a lot of room for growth and opportunity.