I had the great good luck, last week, to sit down at a roundtable hosted by the Pew Research Center and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, with some of today’s pioneers in nonprofit-based digital journalism. I wrote about it here in an article entitled “No ‘New Normal’ Yet! Pew/Knight Session Finds Nonprofit News Enterprise Models Still in Formation”. There were some in the room whose work I have followed for years – one for decades, and that was a thrill—but it was the content of the conversation that really pumped up the adrenaline. Maybe this was partially a fear response: the fear of moving forward when you cannot yet see the path. Because, of course, the Nonprofit Quarterly is facing the same complex future as others around the table. There is no there there yet. . . .
And it strikes me that some of the issues we were discussing—an entire (central to democracy) profession affected by corporate profiteering over mission (a particular kind of market failure), changes in technology and our communities of information seekers, changes in what people believe they should pay for and in our ideas about the engagement of people in understanding and acting on the news—is turbulence incarnate.
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Luckily, there are some prescient funders (both foundations and individuals) who understand that this is an important time to engage in the scrum of finding the nonprofit-based future(s) of journalism—and patterns of enterprise are beginning to emerge. But it is a field in which there is no rest for the weary.
I think that others in the sector should read and understand what is happening in this field because 1) journalism is so central to democracy and community engagement, and 2) we are all in this thrilling scary moment of era change together. And it is time, for many of us, to blow up business models – sometimes repeatedly – and move along to what will work next week, next year, tomorrow.
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