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Journalism nonprofits filling in the void

Posted: May 17, 2010 | Tags: journalism-ecosystem, National Press Club

In the past decade, newsrooms have lost nearly a third of their staff due to drastic decreases in advertising revenue, and journalism nonprofits are stepping up to fill in that void.

“We have this very strange landscape today where we have more than two dozen (journalism) nonprofits across the United States and they are proliferating like rabbits,” said Investigative Reporting Workshop’s Executive Editor Charles Lewis at the National Press Club this morning.

Lewis moderated a panel on producing quality journalism in the new media environment with ProPublica Managing Editor Stephen Engelberg and PolitiFact Editor Bill Adair.

Adair explained PolitiFact came out of his desire to provide voters with more in-depth reporting during the 2008 presidential election and to better harness the power of the Internet. In 2009, PolitiFact was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

“I think this is a great time of opportunity to reinvent things,” Adair said. “We need to get beyond the old constructs and think about how we can practice journalism in new ways.”

PolitiFact now licenses its brand and logo to other news organizations, including the Austin American Statesman and St. Petersburg Times.

Engelberg spoke about ProPublica’s collaborative model which calls for the news group to give away its content for free. In 2009, the group published 138 stories with 38 different news partners. He said their goal is to establish a reputation as a fair and accurate news agency. Being awarded the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Investigative Reporting may help further the group's efforts to that end.

Founded in 2007 through a generous multi-year grant by the Sandler Foundation, the group is also looking at diversifying its revenue in the future. Engelberg noted that the Sandler grant originally funded 100% of their work, but has now gone down to 80%. And, after being awarded the Pulitzer Prize this year, the group took in thousands in one-time individual donations.

“I think ultimately people will pay for information they like and that will hopefully be enough to support what we are talking about,” he added.

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