I remember when I saw the handwriting on the newsroom wall. It was July 2005. I realized that not only was my job as a Washington correspondent doomed, so was the entire newspaper industry. Maybe not that month or that year, but the end was clearly visible on the near horizon.
What to do? I went back to an article written by Phil Meyer, my graduate advisor in J-School at Chapel Hill. In it, Meyer talked about the nonprofit model and its potential to save enterprise and investigative journalism - the world-beating stuff that citizen journalists, bloggers and other volunteers simply could not match.
I decided to launch my own nonprofit. I began by looking for sponsors for a newsroom that would report data-driven investigations from Washington, D.C., and give away its work. I shopped the idea to many of the leading lights in the business. To his eternal credit, Chuck Lewis, founder of the Center for Public Integrity bought me a beer and offered me encouragement. But others sent back at most a few words of encouragement. And money? Forget it!
Fast forward to April 2009. Things have changed so much. New nonprofit news outlets are cropping up every day. Even as I write this post, I see an AP alert about Seattle P-I refugees starting their own online paper. Things have changed for me, too. I've left daily reporting to learn about the nonprofit sector, and I'm working on a second master's - this one in Nonprofit Management in the M.P.A. program at George Washington University. As part of my studies at GW, I'm working on a report on the state of the nonprofit model in journalism. The project involves several phases.
First, I'm trying to make this blog a resource, beginning with a simple archive of news stories I've seen on the topic. (Links are listed on the right side of this page.) Next, I plan to take an informal census of the nonprofits that in some significant are attempting to take up the enterprise and investigative reporting slack left by newspapers. I hope to identify several major archetypes and, perhaps, do some handicapping of their chances for success. I also plan to look at established journalism nonprofits and assess what this sea-change might mean for them. Along the way, I plan to share my findings here.
I'd appreciate constructive input or feedback from those who stumble across this site. What are some sites worth checking out? How good is the journalism? Are they trying to generate revenue? How? And bigger questions like, how will this all shake out? What other issues are in play here?
Thanks for stopping by.