Precariousness of Non-Profit Journalism


Chapters 2 and 3 of Media Work touch upon the same themes but also discuss the idea of liquidity and linearity, one of the topics of last week’s class discussion. The chapters expound upon the idea of editorial versus market logic in media organizations. Creative workers face expectations to produce content that appeals to a mass market as well as products that are considered innovative or novel. As cited in the book, Richard Caves remarked that it is expected in creative industries that a handful of products will make enough money to subsidize the remainder of all other products.

In the field of journalism, this tension between market and editorial logic and linearity versus liquidity is apparent. The newspaper market in particular face high levels of concentration and an increasing pressure to produce a product that appeals to a mass audience, whether it can be considered high quality journalism or not, in order to financially survive. In  “Staying Alive,” an American Journalism Review article published on September 6, 2012, Jodi Ena explores how the newspaper industry has adopted non-profit business models as a way to stay afloat while producing hard-hitting, innovative news stories. [1]

The article shows how precariousness felt by media workers can sometimes reflect the insecurity of the media organizations employing them. Non-profit news outlets provided a haven for a small percentage of the reporters and editors laid off from their newspaper positions. However, the reliance on foundations and wealthy donors did not provide much stability. While some non-profit news organizations survived such as ProPublica, others did not. The article reminisced how in the old days journalists were expected to do one thing – report.  Many times journalists at these non-profit organizations were expected to wear multiple hats, as reporters and as fundraisers. These organizations sought to use the donations to subsidize the hard-hitting, investigative reports that were originally paid for by popular sections such as sports or other Sunday sections, which garnered a lot of ad revenue. The new non-profit news organizations do not yet garner the high audience traffic or found ways to diversify their funding sources in a sustainable fashion. However, outlets like ProPublica have won recognition and awards for the quality of its reporting. Reporters at these outlets may very well be willing to sacrifice the security or higher wages for satisfaction of winning acclaim and recognition from colleagues as suggested on page 106 of Media Work.

– Tunga Lodato

[1] “Staying Alive” by Jodi Ena from American Journalism Review (9/6/12).


No Responses Yet to “Precariousness of Non-Profit Journalism”

  1. Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: