July 19, 2011

Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism Assesses Nonprofit News Landscape

Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism has released a study that assesses the new landscape of today’s nonprofit and for-profit newsrooms.

The study looked for transparency in funding and reporting biases to determine how non-partisan nonprofit news media outlets are.

The emphasis on transparency in funding was immediately lauded in a column in the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR), but also criticized for how it measured ideology and bias.

CJR writes, ”The study defines “ideology” in a way that doesn’t necessarily tell us anything meaningful about the quality of the reporting being analyzed—and it’s quality, measured in terms of accuracy and honesty, insight and significance, that we should be worried about.”

The Project examined 46 newsrooms, 39 non-profit and 7 for-profit. However, many notable nonprofit newsrooms and INN members were excluded from the study.

Out of the 46 newsrooms examined, the study found that almost half of them produced content that was ideological in nature.

It was not surprising that the study found batches of ideology since three particular groups of newsrooms were part of the study. Those groups were typically funded by one parent source and were less transparent about where their funding came from. In several cases, the study found, they produced fewer stories on a weekly basis than less ideological news organizations.

Newsrooms examined for transparency in funding and ideology in the study included commercial sites such as The Daily Caller, and nonprofit groups such as PropublicaTexas Tribune, INN members MinnpostCalifornia Watch of the Center for Investigative Reporting, and newsrooms that are part of the American Independent News Network or part of the Franklin Center for Public and Government Integrity initiative.