Reporters at the new organization will cover local government, economic development, education, crime and other civic issues. “We are filling a reporting gap that the free market will not necessarily fill,” said Michael Hecht, chief executive of Greater New Orleans Inc., a regional business development group, who will head fundraising.
Background, Part 01: Earlier this year New Orleans’ hometown paper the Times Picayune announced they were scaling back and would only print Wednesday, Fridays and Sundays. While the new venture is online, it is/will fill a hole in the city’s local news ecosystem.
Background, Part 02, via Poynter:
Cameron McWhirter and Keach Hagey report in The Wall Street Journal that NPR and the University of New Orleans will announce Friday the launch of a nonprofit news organization called NewOrleansReporter.org, which they plan to have operational by the end of the year. The site will employ 10 to 20 people, McWhirter and Hagey report.
NPR issued a press release after the story, saying the new site will follow a ”public radio funding model” and will be open source, like ProPublica and The Texas Observer. NewOrleansReporter.org will be based in WWNO’s newsroom, and its general manager Paul Maassen will run both organizations. NPR, the release says, is “providing consultation to WWNO around technology infrastructure and online revenue generation as well as training to support the rapid deployment of a multimedia newsroom.”
Background, Part 03: Here’s where it gets interesting. Also via Poynter (emphasis ours):
The letter also says NPR is investing $250,000 in kind in the project (though that dollar amount may be an estimate and is subject to change), and “has decided to make New Orleans its ‘beta’ market to develop a robust online platform for its affiliates nationally.”
Look at the tweets of Sister Christine Ereiser, a Benedictine nun from Tulsa, Oklahoma. She’s active on Twitter and is avid podcaster. By the way, her order, the Benedictine Sisters, is engaging, humorous and even cheeky at times. Go sisters! Finally, I have to point out the pioneering work of Sister Julie from Chicago, a podcaster, blogger and founder of A Nun’s Life Ministry. She provides a fascinating insight into a community of nuns that we don’t often get to see: they are avid content creators, active networkers, and, yes, very geeky!
Without much notice, some dedicated editors, reporters, news entrepreneurs and sponsors are refusing to lament the collapse of an industry. Instead, working from a nonprofit model, they have for decades been breaking important stories, and in just the last few years have made striking gains in numbers, recognition and impact.
Great reporting is still being done by the traditional media, but there is very little of it. It is the nonprofit model… that shows the most promise. More than anything else I can think of, it will serve — is already serving — to hold leaders accountable and keep important issues in public view.
Nonprofit news organizations are important in another respect. The Watergate era made many people see journalism as honest, worthwhile work. They don’t today. The nonprofit model, as it grows and strengthens and stays independent, could bring that spirit back and draw bright, idealistic young people into the profession.
And wouldn’t that be nice.
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.
I triple-dog-dare any major nonprofit news organization to take a little of their foundation budget on the side and let the community vote on how it should be spent.