2010 Trends: Non-Profit Journalism Takes On Investigative Work

notebook.jpgWhen our friends at Folio magazine asked us to contribute to their compilation of media predictions for 2010, we knew we had to include something about non-profit journalism organizations. Here’s part of what we said:

“Media companies will also be looking to partner up in order to pool resources and keep costs low. Non-profit journalism organizations and Web sites that rely on citizen journalism are a good place for traditional media to look for partners.”

Of course, we were thinking of sites like ProPublica, which we wrote about yesterday with respect to its use of crowdsourcing. And long-standing non-profit news organizations like NPR and PBS continue to expand their hyperlocal coverage and online presence. But 2009 also saw the launch a few big non-profit journalism ventures, like The Texas Tribune and The Huffington Post Investigative Fund. They’re poised to grow in the coming year and may become an important part of the media dialogue.

What’s significant about these projects is their emphasis on investigative journalism — something that traditional news outlets are slashing because they find it saps resources but doesn’t deliver much profit. If newspapers cut investigative teams, they’ll have to pair with non-profit groups in order to provide the same level of investigative coverage to their readers.

That the Texas Tribune and HuffPo’s Investigative Fund have also managed to raise significant amounts of money — the Tribune had raised $3.6 million by the time it launched in November and HuffPo’s fund recently received a $200K donation from the Knight Foundation — also speaks to their importance in the media community. Those who donate to these organizations believe in journalism and believe that investigative journalism is an important part of our industry.

And the Knight Foundation, though its one of the main supporters of such initiatives, is not the only one donating to the cause. The Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith told us that his org had received over 1,200 donations from individuals in the $50 to $5,000 range prior to its launch, with the average donation in that bracket coming to $94.

While citizen journalism is the public’s way of getting involved in the coverage of stories, non-profit journalism invites the public to participate as well, by funding projects that would otherwise not exist. It truly is journalism for the people. And if traditional orgs don’t have the resources to give the people what they want to read, we’ll have to pay for it to be produced elsewhere.

Previously: 4 Questions For The Texas Tribune’s Evan Smith, Knight Foundation Pledges $200K To Huffington Post Investigative Fund

(Photo via flickr)