May 23, 2013; NetNewsCheck

The Investigative News Network was established in 2007 to be a support and networking mechanism for nonprofit news sites. It is, or has been, funded by The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Open Society Foundations, Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, and other charitable foundations.

Many journalism sites have had their applications delayed for inordinate lengths of time as the IRS struggled with a new influx of such applications. INN itself had to wait 19 months to be granted 501(c) 3 status last year, so it has decided to fiscally sponsor other nonprofit news projects that have not yet gotten their status. Fiscal sponsorship is a long-utilized method that allows one organization to act as a corporate umbrella for another that does not yet have its status. This allows the organization to legally receive tax-deductible donations, and it also can provide excellent back-office support and training if run correctly.

INN is a network of 82 nonprofits and it is part and parcel of the new news environment. Kevin Davis, CEO, writes,

“In the past, competition was a key driving force in the commercial news world. But today’s nonprofit newsrooms actively seek out partnerships and collaboration both as a source of revenue, and as a way to increase audience and impact. INN itself is an embodiment of this news ecosystem as we share best practices, work together on editorial projects and look for opportunities to leverage the breadth of the membership.

While the competitive tradition still runs deep in some commercial news organizations, many others are seeing real and tangible benefits from collaborations with nonprofits. Nonprofit news organizations—from the Pulitzer-prize winning national organization ProPublica to the community-focused Voice of San Diego—have produced content with and for major broadcast and cable networks.”

Davis points out that the new nonprofit news organization is different and still finding its fit. “Just as nonprofit hospitals and theatres co-exist in the same markets as their for-profit counterparts, so too can nonprofit, public, and commercial newsrooms find equilibrium in the new news environment. And these media ‘competitors’ can leverage each other for mutual benefit as they work to inform and educate the communities they all serve.”—Ruth McCambridge