Wednesday, February 04, 2015

The news-ish business

Non-profit news organizations, like The Lens, are really no different from commercial outlets. They don't depend on advertising (for the most part) but they do rely on their ability to pull in grants and to cultivate relationships with large donors.

They also accept smaller donations, of course.  I try to drop whatever I can in their tip jar whenever I can afford to.  But that really isn't the kind of support they need in order to sustain operations. In other words, "readers like you" are insignificant. What really matters is keeping the big benefactors happy.

What they're finding, though, is that keeping those people happy also means keeping them from looking bad in the news.  And that's not easy to do since most of the new worth writing about in this town largely involves people with lots of money doing bad things.  So maybe you see the problem.
Beatty says ceding to funders by not covering particular stories “would be a dereliction of duty on our part.

“We all know when we’re doing a story that’s going to hurt us,” Beatty says, adding that covering those stories nonetheless is tantamount to maintaining journalistic integrity.

Like a number of nonprofit news outlets around the country, The Lens is in the process of discovering whether that commitment to what Beatty calls “the kind of reporting that upsets people by design” will ultimately garner support or be its ruin, media watchers say.
Simply put, if what you're writing isn't pissing off powerful people, then what you're writing really isn't news.  But if your "news" operation depends on maintaining friendships with those same people, then, if you want to stay in business, eventually you learn to produce a news-ish product instead.  Otherwise, you're pretty much doomed. As a reader, it's possible to stay informed via the news-ish papers, but it's nicer when the bullshit filter has already been applied a few times before you get to it. 

Anyway, if you can help The Lens out, please do so. Their next "Breakfast with the Newsmakers" event features Councilwoman Latoya Cantrell. Seems like a good excuse to get out and support them.    

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