Is it possible that the future of real journalism is in the form of a non-profit entity?
A new "news" non-profit, The Bay Area News Project, was announced Friday by KQED public radio and the New York Times. The project is funded by $5 million grant from F. Warren Hellman.
Some of the staff will be supplied by the 28-person KQED news staff, and the 120 students of the University of California, Berkeley's graduate school of journalism.
The format of the project is not yet complete but there is rumor that much hiring will take place. A call to the Hellman offices revealed that only minutes after the announcement the offices received hundreds of resumes. Many of the Bay Area papers had large layoffs in the past year, so there is no shortage of journalistic talent available.
It appears to be the latest approach given that approximately eight to ten non-profit journalism or news outlets have sprung up around the country: ProPublica in New York, The Voice of San Diego, Texas Tribune, Minnesota Post and others.
The question is, are these forms of journalism outlets sustainable? Once the seed money is gone, are there other sources of funds to keep it going?
The problem with any news organization is that it is labor intensive. For newspapers, the print format was only part of the costs for newspapers. Any news organization needs people -- trained people who perform many tasks beyond reporting the news. It takes a cast of newsroom characters to assign, edit, and fact check. It takes people to decide what will run when, as well as consider when a story is ready to go public.
Let's hope the non-profit model will catch on, continue to flourish and we will again have a strong press to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.