Tuesday, June 2, 2009

J-Lab: Toolkit for Journalism Nonprofits

We all know that nonprofit journalism is on the rise. But now Jan Schaffer and the J-Lab at American University's School of Communication have done what no one else has - they've actually put real numbers around the size and scope of the movement.

The J-Lab report, released today, found that 180 foundations have contributed nearly $128 million since 2005 to "news and information initiatives." The report's overview also gives a sense of the hunger for old-fashioned, independent journalism that exists in communities across the U.S. It says:

These are not random acts of journalism, such as eyewitnesses uploading photos or videos of a major catastrophe. Nor are they the rants of Internet cowboys opining on the state of neighborhood affairs in their individual blogs.

Rather, these new projects are often organized acts of journalism, constructed with an architecture and a mind-set to investigate discrete topics or cover geographic
areas. The projects provide deliberate, accurate and fair accounts of day-to-day happenings in communities that nowadays have little or no daily news coverage.

And increasingly, as legacy news organizations fret about future business models or fail entirely, these shoestring start-ups are attracting support from philanthropic organizations whose mission statements never mention the word “media.”

Better still, the J-Lab also offers a toolkit on how to go about getting funding for such start-ups. There's also a database of grants made.

This is powerful stuff - a desperately needed bridge between the worlds of journalism and philanthropy that had become increasingly conspicuous by its absence.

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