May 18, 2015

Nonprofit Journalism Veterans Run for INN Board of Directors

Three veteran journalists from nonprofit news organizations are running for two open seats on the INN Board of Directors this year.

Under the bylaws, the board is composed of up to six public members, INN's CEO, and four executive directors elected from the member organizations, known as the membership council.

Being a board member requires one in-person meeting, several conference calls throughout the year, and some duties on committees or task forces. All board members are expected to coordinate with and assist management in fundraising and representing the interests of INN to the membership and interested outside parties.

On June 3, 2015, INN will hold elections for two "executive directors or equivalents" for the board of directors as per our bylaws. Only executive directors of member organizations are allowed to vote. Only one person can vote per organization, so if there is a co-ED or more than one equivalent we will use the first qualified vote in from an organization. Those who cannot be present to vote on June 3 can vote by electronic ballot.

Meet the candidates:

Trevor Aaronson, Executive Director of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting.

Trevor Aaronson

Trevor Aaronson

Trevor Aaronson, 36, is the executive director of the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, which he co-founded in 2010. He is a 2015 TED Fellow, and also contributes national security reporting to First Look Media’s The Intercept.

Under Aaronson’s leadership, FCIR has won dozens of national and regional journalism awards, and has established partnerships with Florida’s largest newspapers and NPR member stations, as well as with Florida’s ethnic and Spanish-language news media. He has been active in INN since 2010.

A two-time finalist for the Livingston Awards, Aaronson has won national and regional honors, including the Molly National Journalism Prize and the international Data Journalism Award.

Aaronson helped to launch the U.S. investigative unit for Al Jazeera Media Network, before returning to FCIR as executive director in 2014. He has been an investigative reporting fellow at UC Berkeley’s Investigative Reporting Program, a reporter and editor at The Commercial Appeal in Memphis, and a staff writer at the New Times news weeklies in South Florida.

Aaronson’s book about the FBI’s counterterrorism program, The Terror Factory, was published in 2013, and he has been featured on CBS This Morning, NPR’s All Things Considered, MSNBC, This American Life, C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, WNYC’s On the Media and The Leonard Lopate Show.

Candidate Statement:

Let’s start a revolution.

We all got into this business to cause trouble. I did, anyway, and I know that INN is an institution that needs to be challenged, and that its board needs to be changed.

Small to mid-size nonprofits represent one of the largest membership and voting blocs at INN. Of INN’s approximately 100 members, 42 are independent nonprofits that are not under fiscal sponsorship and produce original investigative reporting, according to a recent analysis by Roddy Boyd of the Southern Investigative Reporting Foundation. Of those 42 members, 23 have annual budgets of less than $500,000. Yet these members are underrepresented on INN’s board, which currently includes, among others, the former “Global Head of News” at Twitter and the executives of four large member organizations. Small to mid-size nonprofits—this large and important constituency—has virtually no voice on INN’s board.

As an INN board member, I will do everything I can to give these organizations the representation they need and deserve.

I will push for services and explore funding opportunities that are specifically targeted to small and mid-size members, which face unique challenges. I also will advocate for greater transparency throughout INN, reduced board terms from five two-year terms to two two-year terms, and the elimination of the six Public Director positions in favor of Member Directors, with Public Directors moving into a new non-voting Advisory Board.

INN needs to advocate for small and mid-size nonprofits. It will require a change in board membership to change board policy. We know from recent conversations on the INN-ED listserv that many INN members want change. Now, you can vote for it.

Laura Frank, President and General Manager of News at the Rocky Mountain Investigative News Network.

Laura Frank

Laura Frank

I started I-News in 2009, after the closure of Denver's oldest newspaper, The Rocky Mountain News, where I was an investigative reporter. I grew I-News from one person (me), to three, then five—all the while diversifying our revenue streams and expanding our distribution and impact. In 2013, with two years' worth of funding in the bank, I-News became the first independent nonprofit investigative news organization to merge with a public media organization (Rocky Mountain Public Broadcasting). Our original mission remains the same: Tell important multimedia stories that otherwise won't be told and distribute them to the public through our own channels and through other media.

Candidate Statement:

I was a founding member of INN, and have served two terms on the board. I’m currently secretary and one of three members of the executive committee. I would like to serve one more term on the board. Here’s why: I believe INN needs to double down on helping our organizations:

1. Find creative ways to raise revenue (Both earned and philanthropic.)

2. Have shared technical resources (Largo is just one example. We need more digital innovation.)

3. Have shared marketing resources (We’re all telling similar stories to our communities.)

4. Learn lessons from other sectors (How do other startups make it? How do other nonprofits sustain themselves?)

5. Understand better what efforts INN is pursuing and should pursue on our behalf (More communication from the CEO and board of directors to the membership and better ways to get the membership’s desires known to the CEO and board.)

My experience on the executive committee will be valuable as INN transitions to its new leadership. While the board has been limited in what it can say publicly about the end of the last leadership era, I can say I'm confident my experience on the executive committee can help us create processes and communication that will allow us to avoid some of the pitfalls that led to such a situation.

INN has done some great work with individual members and seen terrific success. I am pushing for those lessons learned to be shared with the membership as a whole, so we all benefit from the work being done. (I don’t think members should have to pay $85 an hour to learn best practices.) So in short: I will work for more innovation, better management and increased communication. Thank you for your consideration.

Josh Wilson, founder,

Josh Wilson

Josh Wilson

You can get my professional background in some detail over on LinkedIn: ... Here are some things that aren't on there.

I left my day job at in 2001 to take a chance on nonprofit journalism as a vehicle for public-interest reporting that was never going to be on the table at work. I founded, which published enterprise and investigative coverage, was the rollout partner for Spot.Us when it was still a wiki, launched the pioneering aggregation service News You Might Have Missed in 2002, received a 2010 SPJ SDX award, and in the same week lost its grant.

Around that same time I became a father, which precluded working in a sustained startup environment in a field with few prospects for subsidy or investment, and a socially significant product that is, nevertheless, damnably difficult to _sell_.

Ironically, the fiscal sponsor that I founded for Newsdesk, Independent Arts & Media, is still alive and thriving. When I left the board in 2013 it was managing about $425,000 in deductible funding annually for ~45 independent media, journalism, arts and culture programs. It is independently operated today and still sponsors the currently quiescent Newsdesk.

Experience teaches me that public-interest reporting remains structurally disadvantaged in today's media economy — but that good infrastructure can be transformational for whole classes and cohorts of enterprising independent news producers.

Can INN envision and work toward a level of infrastructure that can change the terrain for our collective public-interest endeavor?

Candidate Statement:

As one of your elected members to the INN board of directors, I will work with my peers to manage two major forthcoming processes: strategic planning, and the recruiting and hiring process for INN's new Executive Director/CEO.

To these two defining processes I will bring a specific focus on:

TRANSPARENCY ... in INN board planning and processes.

ADVOCACY ... for the importance of investing in journalism as a non-commercial, needs- and mission-driven service that can deepen and extend public media in the United States.

A LEVEL PLAYING FIELD ... for independent journalism production and enterprise in today's hypercompetitive attention economy.

COLLABORATION AND SHARING ... between news producers to ease the burden of resource-intensive, sometimes redundant back-end services.

INFORMATION EQUITY ... and greater democratic enfranchisement for underserved communities, through the empowerment of independent news producers.

This last point is of particular importance. Are we truly fulfilling our field's aspirations if we neglect service to the least served? As nonprofits our charitable endeavor demands nothing less.

INN needs to be a leader in advocating for the charitable, public-interest mission of nonprofit journalism — to the public, and to the philanthropic sector. Nonprofit journalism in the digital medium is the deepening frontier for public media.

It's time for INN to make good on the bigger vision of the original Pocantico Declaration, with its open-mindedness about deep collaboration between news organizations on content, operations, fund development and more.

I'd love to talk to you about these challenges and opportunities, and learn about your own experiences and concerns. Please feel free to drop me a line at 415-336-3418 or — and thanks for your support.