Should Newspapers be Not for Profits?


Ok, so a lot of newspapers are not making a profit right now — which makes the answer to the question: What would be the difference?

But the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, $1.86-billion foundation, is looking at ways that it and other foundations can shake up journalism, according to an interesting article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, “Knight of the Newsroom.” (Available by subscription.)

There’s been talk about bailouts and loans (one may be made by the city of Boston to the Bay State Banner, a weekly paper geared to the African American community). And there are a number of fledgling nonprofit journalism organizations.

Knight Foundation president and former publisher of The Miami Herald, Alberto Ibargüen, also asked an important question about a journalism program the foundation was funding: “How can we teach best practices when we don’t know what the field is going to be?”

That was the genesis of the Knight News Challenge, a $25 million grant “to support a variety of digital experiments using new, and sometimes controversial, ways to spark local reporting and deliver information.”

The Chronicle describes the Knight News Challenge this way: “Started in 2007, the challenge seeks ideas for cutting-edge technology that delivers timely information and is being applied to a locality. Instead of seeking out only nonprofit groups, Knight is willing to support individual blog writers or media companies — essentially, anyone with a good proposal. And it tries to tap into a diverse collection of candidates by making the competition worldwide and marketing it in nine languages.”

Each year, the Knight News Challenge funds a winning organization that has found new ways of gathering and reporting news.

Check out this slide show (no subscription required) of some of the organizations that the Knight News Challenge has funded.

Some answers to how PR must evolve might be found among the ranks of the Knight News Challenge winners.

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