Membership Standards

INN is a network of more than 120 newsrooms producing journalism in the public interest. Members make up a highly collaborative network, sharing resources and often news coverage. To ensure high standards, they share and follow INN community guidelines for standards in ethics and transparency, and all produce high-quality original news reporting. INN members are reviewed and approved for membership by the INN board of directors.

Please review the requirements below before you fill out an application.

  • Full membership is for U.S.-based, actively publishing news organizations.
  • Provisional membership is available to qualifying startups that want to join before they begin publishing.  

Full membership

Full or regular INN membership is open to organizations that:

  • Demonstrate the capacity to regularly publish original reporting of high quality that is investigative or public service by nature, such as expert explanatory or community public affairs coverage.
  • Apply high journalistic standards for accuracy and fairness in order to prevent conflicts of interest that could compromise the integrity of the work.
  • Maintain editorial independence. INN members produce nonpartisan reporting that is not based upon, influenced by or supportive of the interests or policies of any single political party or political viewpoint or any single religion or religious viewpoint. INN members do not advocate for public policy or legislative actions, though policy or legislative changes may be a consequence of their reporting.
  • Lobby only for freedom of information and freedom of press issues.
  • Report for the general public. Campus or student publications generally do not qualify for INN membership unless they are primarily covering general news for a non-campus audience in partnership with professional news organizations.
  • Are 501(c)(3) certified by the Internal Revenue Service or have a 501(c)(3) nonprofit fiscal sponsor. INN provides fiscal sponsorship for qualifying (LINK) journalism nonprofits, enabling them to remain independent of any potential or perceived conflicts of interest with community or other sponsoring organizations.

Editorial Independence & Donor Transparency

INN members share a commitment to transparency and by becoming members, agree to publish policies regarding fundraising, donations and conflict-of-interest on their websites. These must specify what kind of funding they will and won’t accept.

  • Members must publish their IRS 990 forms, or their fiscal sponsor’s 990, or the equivalent budget and salary information on their websites.
  • Members should publish the names of all individual and organizational donors who have contributed $5,000 or more to the organization or project on their websites.
  • Members should post an editorial independence policy on their web sites.
  • INN encourages all members to adopt, publicize and share with donors and other relevant partners their policies on editorial independence, conflicts of interest, ethics and privacy.  Members also are invited to adopt INN's standards of editorial independence and share that with donors. You can find the editorial independence and samples of these other types of policies on our Legal Resources page.

Members and prospective members who accept anonymous donations of more than $5000 per individual or comprising more than 5% of their total revenue should write an explanation of the situation to INN executive director Sue Cross at Sue@INN.org. These situations are reviewed periodically a few times a year by an INN board task force on membership qualification. Prospective members must apply for membership and send their explanation with their application; the board will review at its next task force meeting. INN may investigate, at its discretion, any complaints or any evidence that it discovers that would suggest that a member organization has violated membership standards and/or the membership agreement.

Provisional Membership for Startups

INN offers applicants who qualify for membership but don’t yet have a 501(c)3 status or fiscal sponsorship the opportunity to join INN as provisional members. This enables you to join the listserv, participate in INN trainings and contribute your knowledge to the network while your fiscal sponsorship or 501(c)3 applications are pending. Startups applying for fiscal sponsorship must qualify for sponsorship.

Startups may be provisional members for up to one year as long as they meet all requirements above for full membership except for active publishing, and pay their regular membership fees. Provisional members take part in all INN member services at member rates but do not have voting rights on bylaws or board elections.