June 8, 2010; Source: First Amendment Coalition | It’s sort of the opposite of Mel Brooks intoning, “It’s good to be the king.” It’s often hard—really hard—to be nonprofit, including a nonprofit newspaper. A former reporter for the Oregonian and the News & Observer, Jim Barnett tried to launch a nonprofit news service. Apparently, Barnett no longer has the nonprofit news service, but has a blog (the Nonprofit Road), and is working on his master’s in nonprofit management at the George Washington University in DC. A busy man, he also works as a night editor at the Washington Post and advisor to the AARP’s publications group.

As his blog and his comments on other sites make clear, he may be working on building some nonprofit management skills, but he’s an unabashed advocate for nonprofits running news sites. In this article, he suggests that “the non-profit model does as good a job as any of matching newspapers’ ability to take risks, throwing reporters and resources at a story without any promise of financial return.”

He contends that some nonprofit journalism might come from groups that aren’t located in journalism, such as Human Rights Watch and the American Red Cross. Regarding the latter, he says that the ARC is representative of nonprofits that “use the tools of journalism as a means of accountability and transparency to donors.”

Maybe Barnett has discovered an ARC that many recent donors wouldn’t recognize, or maybe Barnett has become a no-holds-barred advocate of anything with an “org” at the end of its website address. But one shouldn’t confuse nonprofits that practice transparency and accountability, hopefully better than the American Red Cross, with nonprofits engaged in the practice of investigating and reporting on the news.—Rick Cohen