Through a decade of economic turmoil, a new kind of journalism has emerged. In the last 10 years the number of nonprofit newsrooms (mostly digital/online) in the US has sprung from only a few dozens to more than 200 now. It is no longer a novelty.
“INN Index: The state of nonprofit news 2018 Survey Report” is a replicable baseline study by the Institute of Nonprofit News, a network of more than 180 nonprofit, nonpartisan news media including nonprofit state organizations. And the survey is the first phase of INN index initiative for helping nonprofit news leaders to benchmark their performances.
The study found that 40 percent of the nonprofits are primarily investigative, and one in four regards analysis and explanatory journalism as their main mission. The field is dominated by the organizations established in the past decade. Three-quarters of them were launched in 2008 or later while a typical nonprofit newsroom is just 8 years old. More than half publish daily and eight out of 10 publish at least weekly.
Nearly one-third of nonprofit news reaches their audience on third-party platforms such as newspapers, broadcast outlets or other online news organizations. Another third have developed their own audience, reaching the readers directly through their own website. Challenging the existing environment, the nonprofit news fills the gaps in the news and information system by offering quality in-depth journalism that goes deep on key civic topics.
More than two-third cover government policy, politics or focus on government watchdog or accountability reporting. Among the public affairs topics are environment and education followed by social justice and inequality, and criminal justice. Newsrooms covering mostly current news and events have grown slowly.
Nonprofit news organizations have moved from precarious financial footing to a measure of stability and growth. Although many still remain fragile, more than half of them generated revenues of $500,000 or more in the fiscal year 2017. The estimated annual revenue for more than 188 INN member organizations stood between $325 million and $350 million in 2017.
Nonprofit newsroom staffs are majority-female and mostly white, more diverse than their newspaper counterparts but still lagging in racial diversity. Nonprofit journalism is setting a strong course towards community engagement and collaboration and filling gaps in public information. Challenges for nonprofit news organizations are to find new sources of revenue and sustainability and find ways of reaching a wider audience.
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