Nonprofit Journalism

The ravages of consolidation and the rise of the Internet have converged to create a crisis in journalism.  Job cuts have decimated newsrooms, media companies have closed foreign bureaus, and the number of journalists covering statehouses has shrunk to almost zero in many places. Many small cities and towns — and even large cities like New Orleans — are now without a daily local newspaper.

But good things can emerge from bad situations, and observers have heralded the rise of nonprofit journalism organizations as one of the news industry’s most promising developments. In the last several years, veteran reporters, tech-savvy journalists and members of the public have started dozens of vibrant journalism nonprofits.

Since 2008, there has been a spike in applications for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status from such organizations. The IRS has not kept pace with the uptick, and it’s holding nearly all of these applications until it decides how it will rule. The agency has been cautious in its approach and has blocked many innovative nonprofit journalism endeavors.

Those outlets that won IRS approval before the agency’s clamp-down began, such as ProPublica, the Texas Tribune, MinnPost and Voice of San Diego, are covering issues the mainstream media have largely abandoned, winning awards and engaging communities in the process.

Nonprofit journalism is not a silver bullet for the future of journalism. But fostering a more diverse media system is. If the IRS decides against allowing nonprofit status for newsrooms, it will essentially be arguing that all journalism should be done for profit. The problem is, the market has shown it will not support the full extent and diversity of news and perspectives we need. 

The IRS is working with a set of outdated policies that don’t account for the state of our media today. In the long term, we need to change those policies, but right now we should focus on clearing the way so we can get more journalists serving our communities.


Blog Posts

More »

News from Around the Web

  • How New Jersey Newsrooms Are Working Together to Expose Local Contamination

    Center for Investigative Reporting
    January 7, 2016

    When news organizations team up to collectively investigate an issue in the public interest, big things can happen. For proof, look no further than New Jersey, where the Center for Investigative Reporting is facilitating a collaboration to explore the impacts of contaminated sites across the Garden State.

Learn More

  • Defending All Acts of Journalism

    U.S. journalism is in a fragile state. Strengthening the connections between newsrooms and communities is one way forward.
  • Low Power FM Radio

    Low Power FM radio stations are community-based nonprofit outlets that broadcast to neighborhoods and small towns throughout the country.

    LPFM stations have a limited broadcast range of just a few miles, but their impact on communities can be immense. These noncommercial stations inject vibrancy into a radio dial that has suffered from years of media consolidation.

    LPFM stations offer a platform for content and viewpoints that traditional media overlook. These stations foster community identity and serve as hubs for vital safety information during emergencies.

  • Attacks on Public Media

    Every year, for almost a decade, Americans have ranked public television as the institution they trust most. And more than 70 percent of Americans see funding for public television as money “well spent.” Exactly how much do Americans spend to support this resource? Pocket change: The United States spends less than$1.50 per person on public broadcasting — 20 times less than Germany and a whopping 70 times less than Denmark.

People + Policy

= Positive Change for the Public Good

people + policy = Positive Change for the Public Good