This isn’t to say that these startups are necessarily better positioned for long-term survival than Kennedy’s nonprofits, only that for-profit startups have proven capable of bringing in money and wielding the resulting journalistic firepower—and the industry is better for it. I’ve often wondered why more wealthy individuals haven’t helped journalists launch large, ambitious organizations devoted to for-profit accountability journalism, particularly since major foundations aren’t giving many people a chance to do that these days.

Ultimately, though, The Wired City transcends the exhausting debate over what journalism startups should look like. It gets at a more fundamental point: that news startups, both for-profit and nonprofit, matter. Their coverage is taking hold in their communities. They’re worthy of funding from foundations and private investors alike. And they’re worthy of serious, long-term study.

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Michael Meyer is a CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter at @mcm_nm.