Many have expressed excitement over the new Huffington Post Investigative Journalism Fund, which will support projects in investigative reporting. Others are concerned that the role of The Huffington Post as a funder might bias the journalism towards the left, reflecting the blog's well-known slant. Others doubt that lump-sum journalism is a viable option for the future. In the short-term, it may work, but the long-term sustainability of such funding remains tenuous.
The Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation has given West Virginia University $85,000 to produce multimedia content for rural newspapers. The university's journalism school has begun training rural newspaper staffers to produce video and audio content, as well as blogging and social networking. Read the Charletson Daily Mail article. -- April 6, 2009.
The Reynolds Journalism Institute is a nonprofit think tank affiliated with the University of Missouri's School of Journalism. The Institute is working to preserve journalism and help journalists monetize on their work. One of their first ventures is creating a social networking site that allows solo journalists to connect and collaborate with one another. The Institute is also funding research for a portable, electronic device that would carry the news. The Institute is funded by a grant from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.
Maryland Sen. Benjamin Cardin wrote in today's Washington Post about the reasons he submitted the Newspaper Revitalization Act, a bill to assist newspapers in becoming non-profits. He argues that, while a non-profit structure might not be optimal for some newspapers, many smaller and more local newspapers would benefit from the creation of a IRS category of "qualified newspaper corporation."
The Bottom Line, a segment on Boston's WBUR National Public Radio station, compares the current state of journalism to the technology market, suggesting that we'll see many start-ups in next 10-20 years. Many of those start-ups are funded by foundations, such as the Knight Foundation or the Kaiser Family Foundation. Such ventures include Spot.us, Placeblogger, or Everyblock.com.
Liberal news blog The Huffington Post is launching a new initiative to fund investigative journalism, called the Huffington Post Investigative Fund. The non-profit news organization will pay journalists for original content, which in turn can be posted anywhere online. The fund will be distinct from the online news site in both legal terms and in editorial content.
The response to Sen. Benjamin Cardin's proposed legislation to help newspapers become nonprofits has been met with some criticism. James Taranto of The Wall Street Journal argues that the guidelines for nonprofits would prevent them from writing commentary on legislation and candidates, and thereby have a chilling effect on journalism.
You can read the full Wall Street Journal article here.
In the Cleveland Plain Dealer, columnist Kevin O'Brien goes farther, saying that newspapers must reject Cardin's proposal.
You can read the column in Cleveland Plain Dealer here.
Still others, including the editor of a Southern Maryland paper, note the prohibition on newspaper endorsements if they become nonprofits under Senator Cardin's revitalization act.
You can read the article in The Capital here.
Given the fact that many newspapers seem headed toward nonprofit status anyway, it's perhaps not surprising that someone would try to make it official.
Legislation introduced this week by Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland would enable newspapers to establish themselves as tax-exempt nonprofits and qualify for significant expense savings courtesy of Uncle Sam. Under the Cardin measure, they wouldn't have to pay income taxes on income derived from advertising sales. That's a big difference from existing IRS regulations, which customarily extract federal income taxes on advertising revenue derived by nonprofits. (There are a number of exceptions to this, including one that allows student publications to escape advertising-related income taxes.)
While Cardin's legislation probably qualifies as a longshot, at least anytime soon, it kicks into play an interesting public policy question as newspapers increasingly head to bankruptcy court or worse: Is there a role for government here that would help protect citizens' news and information needs?
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that non-profit magazine Mother Jones has recently been fielding phone calls about their funding and operations. The investigative news magazine takes in money from advertising and circulation, but half of its funding comes from contributions. In this climate, some are looking to this magazine as a model for others.
The director of the Journalism Initiative at the Carnegie Corporation, Susan King, discusses the difficulties in foundation-funded journalism. She cites the different measures that foundations and journalism use for successful work as one example. Journalists typically view a story's success by the number of people who heard or read the story, while her foundation is more focused on engagement and impact.
You can read the Nieman Journalism Lab summary on foundation based journalism, as well as the PDF of King's article .