For the past four years, I have made my intellectual home at George Washington University's Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration, pursuing a master's in nonprofit management. Today, I take my last exam, and on May 15 I take on a new title: alumnus.
The great thing about going back to school at my advanced age and with one master's under my belt, is that it really didn't matter to anyone except me what I did with my time at GW. Looking back, I think that perspective gave me license to pursue topics and questions that I otherwise might have not. It allowed me to help frame questions that the emerging nonprofit sector of journalism must answer in order to survive. It also allowed me to have some fun.
The journey began seven years ago, when I read an article by my first graduate school adviser, Philip Meyer, a man who has been 20 years ahead of his time for half a century. In "Saving Journalism," Phil made a compelling case that we needed to develop new economic models to support what he called "socially responsible journalism" -- the investigative, enterprise and accountability journalism that we need as a society, but aren't always willing to support as individuals. One of the models he suggested was the nonprofit model.
I was hooked. The more I looked at nonprofits, the more I became convinced that the structure was closely aligned with the goals of journalism itself. Nonprofits are supposed to be accountable, transparent and focused on public service. Like newspapers, they might not always meet those goals. But what better place to start looking for a solution?
Today, I am more convinced than ever that journalism and nonprofit models that support it can be mutually reinforcing institutions -- much like the "virtuous cycle" that made it economically desirable for newspapers to support public service journalism.
Now excuse me while I do some last-minute cramming for that econ final.