It appears that more and more journalists are warming up to the idea of writing for non-profit publications, as Emily Bradshaw, Matt Stiles and Elise Hu, three award-winning journalists, quit their full time jobs to take up positions with the Texas Tribune.
The Texas Tribune, 'a non-profit nonpartisan public media organization', is expected to officially launch on November 3 this year, having raised enough funds ($3.5m and counting) to sustain itself for the next three years.
In a phone interview with Mallary Jean Tenore for Poynter Online, Bradshaw, Stiles and Hu explained their reasoning in leaving their previous publications.
"I feel, and still feel, that the newspaper business is in serious crisis. I'm not content to cling to a deck chair and go down with a sinking ship," said Ramshaw, 28, who worked for The Dallas Morning News for six years, the last three of which she was state investigative reporter. "We're trying to prepare for the next incarnation of journalism. If this venture is going to work, it's going to work because serious, talented journalists were brave enough to take the risk."
Stiles, 33, who spent four years at the Houston Chronicle, writing about government and politics, wanted to 'do more Web-centric work and develop new skills. And he got a raise - which he said was unlikely at the Chronicle.'
Twenty-seven year old Hu left her job as state political reporter for KVUE-TV, seeking the new challenges offered by the non-profit news business model. "Generally my philosophy is, if it sounds exciting, just do it," she said. "My only goal has always been just to keep growing, and I don't necessarily think I was growing anymore. I jumped at an opportunity to develop new skills and get better."
"Journalism is at a crossroads right now. We're seeing not just survival of the fittest but a 'mutation of the species,' " said Hu. "I think the non-profit model has just as good a shot as anything else."
Texas Tribune's CEO and Editor-in-Chief, Evan Smith, who left his own position as Editor-in-chief at Texas Monthly magazine in July, expressed his faith in the publication running as a non-profit. "I'm confident that this model is going to work," Smith said. "We will publish original news reporting online (much like ProPublica) and put on conferences, conversation series, and other on-the-record, open-to-the-public events (much like the Aspen Institute.)," and whilst Smith is not looking for a return on their investments, he says : "There's no question that we mean to run this with the same attentiveness to lean budgeting and wise expenditure and aggressive generation of revenue through an earned income as a business might. We have a non-profit mission, a for-profit mentality."
So is the non-profit model the future of journalism?
The fact that many young journalists are getting on board is a good sign. That the public are following suit and investing in the Texas Tribune is even better news, because at the end of the day, they will decide whether or not the non-profit experiment succeeds. It is the public that needs to recognise the worth of such organisations as watchdogs and consequently, pay the bills.
Source: Poynter Online