The Institute for Nonprofit News (INN) is a growing national network of 120 nonprofit news organizations dedicated to providing investigative and public service reporting. INN’s work helps newsrooms bring investigative and civic news to more people, hold the powerful accountable and strengthen democracy. More information can be found at https://inn.org.
A funny thing happened on the way to sustainability for the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting. Specifically — data journalism, and selling the Center’s expertise to major news clients, such as the Miami Herald, and local NBC and NPR affiliates, that lack the staffing and expertise to really crunch the numbers.
This is a guest post from Cliff Perlman, Attorney At Law with Perlman & Perlman. Although Investigative News Network members may not solicit funds in many places or receive large sums, it is nevertheless important to understand the laws that apply to your various fundraising efforts. Failure to comply can lead not only to fines from the state in which you solicit and such failure can also lead to bad publicity which can hurt you and the Network on many levels. It is important for you to understand how charitable fundraising activities are regulated. This article provides an overview of charitable solicitation.
Running a nonprofit news organization is tricky business. While the ventures aren’t in it to make money, raising enough of it to achieve the ever-illusive “sustainability” is a constant concern. Today, the Knight Foundation released its report on a year-long sustainability study detailing how a group of successful nonprofit digital newsrooms are engaging audiences and diversifying revenue. Mayur Patel and Michelle McLellan examined eight nonprofit digital news organizations, half of which are INN members:
Voice of San Diego
St. Louis Beacon
New Haven Independent
The report, “Getting Local,” focused on the economic viability, business strategy, social impact and adaptability and capacity of nonprofit ventures.
The New England Center for Investigative Reporting, a nonprofit investigative reporting newsroom based at Boston University, has made its objectives clear. Right next to their mission statement to ensure the survival of serious, in depth, investigative journalism is a line that says: “to train a new generation of investigative reporters.”
“That’s been one of our major goals since the moment we opened our doors in January 2009,” says co-founder and co-director Joe Bergantino. Now in its third year, NECIR’s Investigative Reporting Workshop for High School Students has garnered much success, helping secure NECIR’s financial sustainability. Fifty-four high school students from 15 states and six countries spent two weeks at NECIR this summer. They raised $107,000, more than double the program’s gross revenue last year, and nearly doubled their enrollment.
For all those folks out there who worry about the future of journalism, Laura Frank of the Denver-based I-News Network has a message:
“Meet the high school students who attended the I-News 2011 Investigative Journalism Institute,” said Frank, executive director of the I-News Network, a founding member of INN. “The future of journalism is in good hands.”
Helping train the next generation of investigative reporters is not only part of I-News’ mission, she said, it’s also a revenue stream. I-News charged $1,000 – room and board, included – for the week-long institute, held on the University of Denver campus last month. Five scholarships were underwritten by a local philanthropy, the Brett Family Foundation in Boulder, Co. Canon sponsored the multimedia segment of the camp.
To help our members find pro bono or low-cost legal help, the Investigative News Network has partnered with the Online Media Legal Network (OMLN) at Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.
A report released by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week examined the state of local media in the changing digital landscape and came to a rather grim conclusion: while the proliferation of online media has increased accessibility to news sources, there is a significant deficit in the quality and accountability of local news reporting around the nation. “The independent watchdog function that the Founding Fathers envisioned for journalism—going so far as to call it crucial to a healthy democracy—is in some cases at risk at the local level,” writes Steven Waldman, former journalist for Newsweek and U.S. World Report. The report, titled The Information Needs of Communities provides a comprehensive look at “the changing media landscape in the broadband age,” concluding that some federal regulations are not in line with the information needs of local communities. The report recommends several measures to improve the current state of the media. Waldman highlights the need for in-the-field reporting at journalism schools, and suggests a new tax code that would encourage donations to nonprofit media. As for the role of government, Waldman calls for more transparency by the government to “reduce the cost of reporting, empower consumers, and generally improve the functioning of media markets.”
Editorial collaborations may be the key to a brighter future for investigative journalism organizations, according to Sandy Rowe, a Knight Fellow at Harvard Kenedy’s Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy in her paper Partners of Necessity: The Case for Collaboration in Local Investigative Reporting. Rowe’s paper explores the benefits and inevitability of collaboration, citing models of effective collaboration strategies, identifying challenges and offering advice for editors who want to pursue partnerships. Her objective is clear: “Leaders of local investigative reporting…who can form effective and independent partnerships for the most complex journalistic work… will be the winners.”
Sandy Rowe is the former editor of The Oregonian. She currently chairs the Board of Visitors of The Knight Fellowships at Stanford University, and is a board member of the Committee to Protect Journalists.
The inaugural CEO of the newly-formed Investigative News Network, Kevin Davis, spoke this month at a gathering at the University of Southern California about “pioneering new economic models to help to monetize the shared, combined content of the member organizations, in order to achieve a more sustainable journalism.”