Posts Tagged ‘Journalism’

Katz’s 3 axioms of foundation funding for journalism

21 September 2009

Last week, I shared a drink at Union Square with Michael Stoll, the project director for San Francisco’s nonprofit Public Press; he’d reached out to me after the Free Press online chat on “What’s the Future of Foundations and Journalism?” – and I’m glad he did.

One of the things we talked about was the significance of Geoff Dougherty’s recent announcement that the Chi-Town Daily News, Chicago’s Knight Foundation-funded experiment in nonprofit journalism, would be shutting down. The Chi-Town Daily was one of the first to receive Knight funding, and also one of the larger operations, so there’s been a lot of chatter about the shop’s closure over the past couple of weeks (here are 2 good ones from Jim Barnett’s NonProfit Road, and a video from Dave Cohn). I don’t know Geoff, and I’m not familiar with Chi-Town’s inner workings, but at the risk of misreading the tea leaves, herewith my Three Axioms of Foundation Funding for Journalism.

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Clay Shirky’s “second great age of patronage,” foundations, and journalism.

19 July 2009

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.

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Dukes, pretenders to the throne, and citoyens: 3 discussions on the future of journalism that need to come together

5 June 2009

When I started this blog a little while ago, I thought I’d mainly focus on the (as I put it) “intersection of journalism, fundraising, and technology” – figuring that I’d eventually get lost in the weeds/arcana/geekdom of fundraising since that’s what I can bring to the larger table  chewing over the future of (biz models to support) journalism (aka FoJ). So I reached out to Dave Cohn at here, here and here, because I think he’s doing something really interesting. And I’ll get back to you, Dave (I owe you answers to those 2 questions you posed for me).

But the past couple of weeks, when it comes to thinking about work-related stuff, I’ve headed in a different direction – and think I’ll probably keep doing that for a bit longer before I head back to the weeds. Reason being that there’s been some really interesting thinking/doing/arguing about the larger structures through which journalism – however we end up defining that term in the near future – will be organized.

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Digidave talks about and fundraising

27 May 2009

Here’s Dave Cohn aka Digidave talking about fundraising and Keywords are “transparency, immediacy, and control” (for the donor, that is). Towards the end of the video (btw Dave, are you suffering from bad bed hair, or is that a hat you’ve got on?!) Dave puts a couple of questions on the table for me. I’ve got a day full of fundraising meetings (okay, that’s somehow completely if ironically appropriate), so I’ll get this up now and get a response up later today…Thanks Dave!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

(BTW Dave – it’s “May-mon-ih-dees.” Maimonides. Greek for Hebrew.)

more about “ – Conversation with Steve…“, posted with vodpod

A fundraising question about

20 April 2009

Ruth Anne Harnisch posted a comment earlier today here and pointed to Dave Cohn’s as a model to watch for journalism.

The basic idea: reporters propose story ideas or “tips” in the hope that there will be enough “citizens” interested in making a pledge of support.

Here’s how the site describes what this means:

“Pledges give reporters a sense of community interest in a news “tip.” It does not represent real money. Nothing is committed – although we ask you pledge only what you’d be willing to eventually donate if a reporter builds a full “pitch” inspired by this tip. Donations to pitches are tax-deductable and are a transaction. If the pitch is unsuccesful, you will receive money back in the form of Spot.Us credits. No matter what your money will go to support journalism.”

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Foundations, heal thyselves!

18 April 2009

The recent announcement about the Huffington Post Investigative Fund raised some concerns for me, not so much with how the journalism will be organized (although there’s plenty to talk about just there) but more on how philanthropy may not be properly organized to serve this need.

Here’s what I see unfolding:

First, various media observers (Paul Starr, Jay Rosen) are beginning to talk about journalism (Starr) or more specifically investigative journalism (Rosen, twittering away) as a “public good.” This takes the argument for “non profit journalism” (which for instance, Vince Stehle’s recent piece in the Chronicle of Philanthropy neatly laid out) and extends it: it’s no longer just about the structure of financing and operations – now it’s perceived to be actually intrinsic to the work itself. If this consensus takes hold, I think it’s actually a big deal for how journalism or investigative journalism will be perceived in the near future.

I’m personally not sure about Starr’s argument that “news delivered to the public is a public good,” (Brittney Spears a public good?) but I do think Rosen’s case that investigative journalism is a public good can be made. Historically delivered via private, commercial media operations, but now with the upheaval in the business (particularly metropolitan daily newspapers), the search is on for a new home for investigative journalism. The argument then goes that given its status as a public good, investigative journalism “ought” to be supported via some sort of public funding, or at least funding made in the public trust. That is, philanthropy. And so we see a kind of intellectual backfilling going on to justify what’s beginning to unfold: big donors (like the Sandlers) or foundations (Atlantic Philanthropies) putting major money into investigative journalism. And of course this has been Mother Jones’ MO for 33 years.

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Introducing Maimonides’ Ladder

18 April 2009

I used to do a lot of writing besides the stuff that has to get done at work. These days, not so much. I want to change that with this blog. The main thing I want to use this for is to chronicle and try to figure out how journalism will get paid for in the coming years. There’s been a lot of talk about, and some experimentation with, ways to answer this question, but so far the way forward isn’t all that clear.

As other options started to get shaky, people began looking at a non profit option (some dignified it with the word, “model” – yeesh) for journalism. Instead of it being seen as marketFAIL – if you can’t sell stuff to support the journalism, the thinking goes, then “the market” obviously doesn’t want you so get outta here – now some are seeing it as the wisest way forward – after all, it should allow you to diversify your revenue stream to include both “real” money and contributions. Other experiments are going all the way, rejecting traditional sources of revenue like advertising or subscriptions, and just doing the donation route.

Well, a lot of the thinking and doing in all this is coming not from people who actually think about non profits and fundraising, but from biz dev refugees from the commercial media, or from journalists themselves who are by and large, making it up as they go along.

I figure I can at least apply a fundraising filter to all the talk, to see if what’s being proposed and test makes sense from the point of view of fundraising practice. Maybe that’ll be useful. At least it’ll give me a place to think about it.

The flip side is that the journos who are trying out the new stuff are coming up with some pretty interesting approaches to fundraising – so it’s a two way street. And so maybe I can carry some of that back into the fundraising trade, too.

So that’s mainly what I’m starting this blog to do.

Me? Maybe there are people who actually choose to spend their working time as a fundraiser. I sort of fell into it, being (back then, anyway) a young, low-cost white boy looking for a cause and who could write decently.

I’ve been doing non profit stuff since the mid-70s. I worked for a few years back in the Bronx and Brooklyn doing street level work – fundraising, project management, organizing. Worked in the arts in the 80s out in the Bay Area (mostly with a great ensemble, Traveling Jewish Theatre), and fell in love (again) with the theater during that time. In the 90s and early part of the new century, I shifted over to the environmental scene, ending up running a pretty large size development department at Earthjustice (nee Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund) for several years (at some point, if there’s a lesson to be shared, I’ll have to tell the story of why I left). I joined up with Mother Jones in 2003 (I was a subscriber way back), and that’s where I am today, and why this question is on my mind.

Oh yeah: I did get a PhD in Sociology from UC Santa Cruz along the way.

I’ll probably also use this blog for more personal stuff, too – health issues are on my mind these days. If I’m not posting for a while, I hope that’s because I’m out backpacking somewhere majestic. Probably rant some, too, when it’s called for.

(Update March 2010: I’m now the publisher of Mother Jones, too.)