I’ve written about foundation funding for journalism before (in fact, it was what got me started doing this thing in the first place). But Clay Shirky’s Cato-Unbound piece (interesting choice of publication site) arguing inter alia that we’re entering “a second great age of patronage” got me thinking again about this topic.
Shirky writes: this new patronage is
“. . .either of the ‘one rich person’ model, as with Richard Mellon Scaife’s subsidy of conservative journals, or the NPR Fund Drive model, where the small core of highly involved users makes above-market-price donations to provision a universally accessible good run for revenue but not for profit.”
Your local journalism fundraiser says it’s actually got to be both at the same time – since that is what a successful nonprofit fundraising program almost always looks like. It’s a measure of just how far the new nonprofit journalism world has to yet to go, fundraising-wise, that Clay sets up a distinction where it’s actually a continuum. Of course, there are reasons for that: mainly, the way these new projects are getting started – with (relatively) big money, and little or no membership/community base. And since journalists tend to be lousy community organizers, this could be a problem.