Is Nonprofit News the Future of Journalism?

When people think of nonprofits, many people often think of organizations devoted to curing a disease or saving the environment. However, news organizations like the Nevada Independent and ProPublica are trying to “save” journalism by going completely digital and changing their structure to a nonprofit to avoid corruption from political stakeholders and owners.

With high levels of media distrust and fake news, nonprofit news paves the future for high quality, accessible news.

There are more nonprofit news organizations than some may think. According to a 2014 Pew Research Center study, “172 digital nonprofit news outlets that launched since 1987.” Since 2013, that number has only continued to grow.

This phenomena started making waves in 2008, when ProPublica, a Manhattan-based investigative journalism organization, changed its model from for-profit to nonprofit. According to the organization, the decision came about both because, “investigative journalism can require a great deal of time and labor to do well” and because, “in the best traditions of American journalism in the public service, we seek to stimulate positive change.”

ProPublica wanted investigative journalism done right, so they switched to the nonprofit model, giving them the ability to tackle risky investigative stories. This included adding a section to its website called “Investigations.” This page details the ongoing investigations that ProPublica is looking into, including on America’s Disappearing Workers Protections. Stories in this investigation include The Demolition of Worker’s Comp and Price Check: How Companies Value Body Parts.

Other organizations have formed to combat owner bias.

As a native of Nevada, I grew up with two for-profit newspaper choices: the Las Vegas Review Journal (which tended to be more conservative) and the Las Vegas Sun (which tended to be more liberal). However, in 2015, casino owner and known Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson financed the purchase the Las Vegas Review Journal in addition to four Israeli newspapers. Since then, the editor-in-chief has quit because the paper has reportedly become merely a way for Sheldon Adelson to, “advance [his] positions on Israel, (for) Internet gambling, (against) marijuana legalization and (against) unions.”

One person who decided that wasn’t acceptable was Jon Ralston, a well-known Nevada journalist with his own show on PBS. In the months after Adelson bought the Las Vegas Review Journal, Ralston was extremely critical of Adelson, calling the Review Journal “Adelson News.” A month later, PBS cut his show citing a lack of  funding.   

Ralston, undeterred, then founded The Nevada Independent, an online, nonprofit publication, “focused on truthful, transparent journalism and civic engagement and education” in January.

“Nonprofit news is the future of journalism,” Ralston said in an interview with MediaFile. “Presenting news in a deep and transparent way, with all donors disclosed, without fear or favor.”  

But moving toward a nonprofit model isn’t just helping for well-known news organizations that are looking to report the real news without money serving as an influence on what to say.

This piece is published in MediaFile, an independent nonprofit organization, that gives college students and beyond a voice without the need for university bureaucracy.  Nonprofit news not only benefits readers who gain knowledge when they read the articles, but also gives next-generation journalists a chance to have their voices heard.

If consumers supported nonprofit journalism in an era when newspapers make little money and are burdened with creating sensationalists stories just to sell, they could save journalism as we know it while keeping objective reporting alive.

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