I’m sad to see that the Washington Independent is closing up shop after three years. I worked there from January 2009 through March 2010, starting up a beat about the conservative movement and the GOP. And because the end of a non-profit news organization (the American Independent News Network of state sites, which operated TWI, will continue) inspires lots of brow-furrowing and analysis about the meaning of that business model, let me just say that the TWI model produced a smart and rewarding publication that didn’t pander.
It also struggled to define itself, but I think — obviously I’m not a businessman — that it came up with a decent model. The highest-profile examples of non-profit journalism have been investigative reporting hubs like Pro Publica and the Huffington Post Investigative Fund which focused on journalism that really was becoming hard to fund privately — investigations that would take weeks to produce news, if they produced any news. That’s the stuff being lost in the age of web ads and shrinking newspapers; also being lost are state house reporters, who get granular on day-to-day political stories, build sources, and discover information that you can’t discover if you’re counting on wires and press releases to tell you how your government works.