Pew report: digital nonprofits optimistic

The numbers are discouraging, but journalists maintain that their outlets will succeed

Despite rather grim numbers, staffers at digital news nonprofits are optimistic about the future of their outlets, according to a Pew report released Monday.

The report, “Nonprofit Journalism: A Growing but Fragile Part of the US News System,” looked at 172 news organizations throughout the country. Almost half of the outlets studied sprouted during the Great Newspaper Purge of 2008-09, many aiming to replace the growing shortfalls in local news reporting. Two have won Pulitzers (ProPublica and InsideClimate News?).

Regardless of scope or stature, though, most of the outlets are small, and many overly dependent on one revenue source that may not pitch in additional funds after providing seed money. And they are often tethered to a university or think tank to qualify as a 501(c)(3), since journalism startups struggle to obtain the designation from the IRS. Moreover, most digital nonprofit employees admit that they don’t devote enough time to raising more money from a greater variety of sources.

Despite the bleak statistics and a lack of focus on the business side of things, 81 percent of the news organizations polled by Pew counterintuitively report being either “very” or “somewhat” confident about their finances in the future. Co-author Amy Mitchell, acting director of Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, said this optimism may stem from the deep investment journalists have in their outlets’ survival.

“It’s important to think you are going to find a way out, if you will,” she said. “You’re going to meet the challenges that are put in front of you.”

Here’s hoping.

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Kira Goldenberg was an associate editor at CJR from 2012-2015. Follow her on Twitter at @kiragoldenberg. Tags: , ,