27 November 2008

Nonprofit Future For Watchdog Journalism?

Could the future of investigative journalism be Web-only stories produced by nonprofit independent outfits?

That’s the issue discussed in a recent New York Times article that chronicles the rise of small not-for-profit news groups which are popping up in some of America’s big cities.

According to the NYT, these operations dedicate themselves to investigating local issues and are funded by grants, donations both big and small, and the odd bit of advertising.

The Times points out that these corporations resemble public service broadcasters in their financial structures but are usually managed and staffed by unemployed refugees from the print media world.

And it’s a perceived gap in investigative reporting from traditional news sources that is driving the growth of these nonprofit watchdog websites.

One such example cited by the NYT is the VoiceofSanDiego.org, which was part-founded by retired local entrepreneur Buzz Woolley when he became frustrated at the lack of coverage of corruption among the city’s public figures.

Woolley said: “Information is now a public service as much as it’s a commodity.”

“It should be thought of the same way as education, health care. It’s one of the things you need to operate a civil society, and the market isn’t doing it very well.”

And the online newspaper makes its position clear in its mission statement: “To consistently deliver ground-breaking investigative journalism for the San Diego region.

“To increase civic participation by giving citizens the knowledge and in-depth analysis necessary to become advocates for good government and social progress.”

Visit the NYT to see the full article.

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