Robert Rosenthal, executive director of the Center for Investigative Reporting recently released a statement highlighting the recent successes of California Watch's distribution model. Created by CIR, California Watch is a relatively new reporting initiative which continues the center's efforts to develop a successful method for distributing their reports and stories.
Nonproft California Watch operates by producing investigative reports that are then distributed to the public through partnerships with mainstream news organizations and social networks. It charges news outlets for its stories.
Since its inception in 2009, California Watch has steadily grown in importance in the world of news. Rosenthal pointed to a recent report that covered the dangerous conditions of the state's university facilities in the event of an earthquake was featured in numerous Californian newspapers, radio stations, and local television news reports.
Rosenthal noted that various versions of the report were created and used by the news organizations. Some of the local media outlets took the story one step further by including local opinion in their reports.
The success of the report and its widespread use by news outlets across California is a major boost for the initiative. The ongoing crisis in the media has left traditional news organizations increasingly less capable of funding investigative journalism themselves.
In a recent article for the Nieman Journalism Lab, part-time editor for The Washington Post, Jim Barnett noted that "the for-profit model alone no longer can support the kinds of investigative, explanatory, and accountability journalism that society needs." He interviewed Len Downie, former executive editor of The Washington Post and current CIR board member, who firmly believes that the future of investigative journalism lies within a non-profit model.
Many attempts are currently underway to establish a working non-profit model for journalism. Downie points out that it will take some time for organizations to establish their legitimacy to news outlets. In the long run the benefit of these small and independently run organizations lie within their transparency and collaboration with other agencies. These agencies have more flexibility in what they report; their very survival depends upon the quality of their reporting.
While their exists many benefits in the non-profit model, the problem of funding continues to hold them back. Quality investigative reporting requires an enormous amount of resources. While it appears that California Watch's model (charging news outlets for using their reports) is working, no one can say as yet whether such an effort will prove sustainable.