the news frontier

New Knight Foundation Report

How local news nonprofits search for sustainability
October 18, 2011

Quality journalism is not a sound business plan; even if you have a good-size audience and mind-blowing stories, it’s not always enough to pay the bills. What to do? The Knight Foundation’s most recent study reports some of the ways, beyond quality journalism, that nonprofits in particular are striving for financial stability.

“Getting Local: How Nonprofit News Ventures Seek Sustainability,” takes a detailed look at the practices of seven mid-sized, professionally run sites, which define their news communities geographically: The Bay Citizen (San Francisco), Crosscut (Seattle), MinnPost (Minnesota), the New Haven Independent, the St. Louis Beacon, the Texas Tribune, and the Voice of San Diego. The report shows how these organizations have expanded beyond foundational support, and are tinkering not only with different ways to raise revenue, but also how to spend it. The study includes a break down of how each news outlet doles out its resources, from the technical side to editorial, and how they are adapting as what’s working, and what isn’t, becomes more clear.

Engagement is of particular importance to a community news site, and one of the more interesting points of the report is how some of these sites are serving their readers offline, at in person events. This year, Voice of San Diego launched “Politifest,” a day “of fun and lively civic involvement” which included a mayoral debate and an ideas contest. MinnPost holds an annual MinnRoast, which features “Journalists and politicians gently skewered,” and has proven a source of serious cash: the event raised $135,000 in 2010. The St. Louis Beacon hosts monthly discussions for community members, and features local art, music, and literary events at their annual Beacon Festival.

The full report can be read here:

Alysia Santo is a former assistant editor at CJR.