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Our Impact

Within 10 years, independent, nonprofit newsrooms will produce a significant share of the news consumed by most Americans about our civic life.

And that news will flow from newsrooms that reflect the full diversity of the communities they serve. When the American public needed us the most — with the Covid-19 pandemic, protests demanding racial justice, and a deeply divisive election — the nonprofit news sector reached a new level of impact. With more than 2,500 journalists grounded in newsrooms across the country, the nonprofit news field demonstrated that it can:

Of equal importance, 2020 affirmed that sustainable business models exist for journalism rooted in civic purpose rather than profit. INN creates an ecosystem where new forms of public service journalism are being discovered and developed, and many of the nation’s strongest journalists are supported through this network. While the news industry as a whole remains in crisis, the story of nonprofit news is growth, resilience and invention. To support the incredible individuals and organizations doing the work of nonprofit news and ensure this field grows even stronger, in 2020 INN:

The next few years will define the future of our free press, for generations. Nonprofit newsrooms are shaping this new era in news by restoring trusted reporting, the coverage that communities count on and engage with, and the facts and understanding around which people can come together. We invite you to read how we’re doing it, and join us, in reimagining and rebuilding news as a public good.

Sue Cross
Executive Director & CEO
Institute for Nonprofit News

2020 IMPACT REPORT

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Our members are the epitome of grit, resilience and savvy. Brilliance, too. These entrepreneurial journalists go beyond solo reporting to invest in building news organizations that last.

INN has an unparalleled depth of knowledge. Grounded in hard data from the field and the experience of our diverse membership, INN understands the state of the field — what’s working, what isn’t, and what’s possible now.

We use that informed perspective to guide strategic investments provided by our philanthropic partners to make a critical difference. Driven by a flow of real-time information, we are continuously adapting to the opportunities of an evolving field rather than making singular bets.

What matters most

No one knows the needs of nonprofit news better than INN and its 300 members. Our services are designed to build opportunities with the most transformative potential. Our annual INN Index study and daily work with newsroom innovators give INN a finger on the pulse of the field and the ability to quickly design programs that build strong news providers.

Accordingly, each of INN’s top priorities contributes to the overarching goal of journalistic excellence:

Elevate journalism as a philanthropic priority. The core distinction of nonprofit news’ business models is that they are sustained by philanthropic contributions, rather than primarily advertising revenue. That requires a social redefinition of news from something we purchase (or get for free) to something we contribute to and invest in as a shared public good. Since 2016, INN members have raised more than $150 million from 2.3 million individual donors in the NewsMatch matching-gift program. This initiative is one of the most ambitious collaborative fundraising campaigns in the field of journalism, raising more than $21 million in pooled matching funds from 17 national and more than 300 local funders. With our core partners, INN is now evolving the program to leverage its success in generating individual and institutional philanthropy and transforming how communities sustain journalism for years to come. In addition, INN provides a Network Philanthropy Center, with expert coaching and a range of services that help newsrooms build sophisticated development programs to find, retain and expand the foundations of major giving in support of public service news. The Center launched in 2020 and already has helped hundreds of news sites amplify public support for their journalism.

Position diversity, equity and inclusion as field norms. To fulfill journalism’s fundamental promise of supporting informed communities, and not just those prioritized by advertisers, INN is elevating diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) standards within our organization and across our network. Many INN members are leaders in DEI work, while others are grappling with issues ranging from attracting and retaining diverse talent to rethinking the standards that enable nonprofit news to be anti-racist, inclusive and equitable. We are elevating dialogue across the field, expanding training programs and data collection to track DEI trends in nonprofit news. Within INN, we are working to better align our staff, leadership, and board with the standards we aspire to meet, and to ensure that we are a welcoming, relevant network organization for BIPOC-led nonprofit news organizations.

Sponsor smart experimentation that moves the field forward. Over the past decade, the pool of knowledge about nonprofit news has grown exponentially. We see the emergence of proven, replicable models that demonstrate how nonprofit news organizations can be structured to thrive in a wide range of circumstances, supporting a diversity of communities and objectives. And yet, it is still a field in formation and there is an immense amount to learn.  INN members pool their data and experience to work as an innovation and learning lab. It is a period of fertile experimentation, as we find new ways to support journalism and meet community needs. Essential issues that need to be explored now include new uses of technology to help consumers find news they trust, designing collaborations and partnerships to expand the reach and impact of shared reporting and new ways that journalism can meet consumers’ interests in building strong communities.

Collaborate and commit to high standards. The INN community shares commitments to trust, transparency and high standards for quality journalism. Following a year in which political interest groups financed more than 1,200 sites mimicking local news, this has never been more important. INN network newsrooms inform with facts and work for the benefit of their readers and communities rather than any particular cause or party. They pledge editorial independence from advocacy or influence, let the public know their major funders and limit anonymous gifts. They also collaborate and share their journalism itself, contributing nonprofit news reporting to thousands of commercial media outlets. By working together and sharing news as a public trust reporting and new ways they bring the benefits of reliable information to millions of Americans and are helping to build shared understanding of our common challenges.

Invest in talent and the human capital to drive sustained change. For some nonprofit news leaders, the challenge is how to make the leap from “reporter” to “publisher,” which requires a very different set of business skills. For others, there is a challenge in helping newer organizations rise to high standards of journalism. INN invests deeply in talent, recognizing that it is individual leaders and their teams who will create the future of journalism. Our role is not to answer all of the questions, but to continually support — through training, mentoring, and collective engagement — the leaders who will take nonprofit news from a grand experiment to a pillar of American democracy.

INN is designed around principles of networking and peer-to-peer exchange. As a result, as these and other investments reveal opportunity and build capacity, all learning is widely distributed across the network. When any one organization makes a leap forward, others have the opportunity to build on success and adapt innovations to their particular circumstances.

We are leading into a new and brighter future for news

In this year of crisis, millions of Americans discovered they could depend on nonprofit news. From the pandemic through racial reckoning, through political polarization, economic stresses and efforts to recover: independent, nonpartisan newsrooms proved themselves an information safety net. 

INN and its members are creating a strong foundation — a new root system — for American journalism based on knowledge, shared research and resources, high standards and open values. 

Having grown tenfold over the past decade, INN has an ambitious vision for the future — another cycle of tenfold growth through 2030, resulting in an American field force of more than 20,000 public service journalists. While most easily measured by scale, this growth is fundamentally about quality in our news coverage. 

Within 10 years, independent, nonprofit newsrooms will produce a significant share of the news consumed by most Americans about our civic life, and that news will flow from newsrooms that reflect the full diversity of the communities they serve.

As INN and our nonprofit news network grows, our goal is to spark a new era of journalism equipped for the social complexities, technologies and defining issues of the coming decades. 

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