Membership Standards

INN is a network of nearly 200 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.

Just applying? Please review the requirements before you apply.

      • Full membership is open to organizations actively publishing news that are based in North America.
      • Affiliate membership is for organizations that support nonprofit news and align with INN’s mission in working to advance this type of journalism, but may not be publishers or fit regular membership qualifications. Affiliate membership also can be appropriate for news publishers for which publishing is only part of the organization’s broader mission, such as training student journalists, research, running a journalism trade or collaboration group, or raising public awareness of an issue or topic. INN does not accept cause communications or trade publications even if content is produced using journalism techniques.
      • Provisional membership is available to some qualifying startups that want to join before they begin publishing and for full members who pause active publishing for up to one year.

Editorial Independence & Transparency

Public trust in journalism is essential. To build and maintain trust, journalists and their organizations must be truthful, transparent and independent in their reporting in order to best serve the public.

All 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, in an effort to maintain reader trust. These policies must specify what kind of funding the publication will and won’t accept.

As an INN member, a publication agrees to:

      • Confirm its 501(c)(3) certified by the Internal Revenue Service or have a 501(c)(3) nonprofit fiscal sponsor. Canadian publications and those based at universities with a different IRS status are invited to consult with INN before applying. INN can provide fiscal sponsorship for qualifying journalism nonprofits that are starting up or converting to nonprofit from for-profits.
      • Publish financial information publicly to a publication’s website and/or print product.
        • Identify all donors to the organization that give more than $5,000 in a year by publicly listing them on the publication’s site and/or posting a link to 990 tax filings that identify donors of $5,000 or more.
        • Post either full 990 filings, links to their 990, or equivalent budget, salary and donor information on its web site where consumers can access it. In the case of fiscally sponsored organizations, the member will post a link to its sponsor’s 990, and is encouraged to publish a breakout of its own information.
        • Ensure that no more than 5 percent of its total annual budget derives from anonymous donations.
        • Post an editorial independence policy.
        • If the publication has a fiscal sponsor or parent 501(c)3 organization, publicly disclose and explain how the news project maintains editorial independence from its fiscal sponsor or parent, and if or how donor funds are separated between the organizations.

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 are welcome to adopt or adapt INN's standard of editorial independence and share that with donors. The editorial independence and samples of these other types of policies can be found on INN’s Ethics & Practices page.

Members and prospective members who accept anonymous donations of more than $5,000 per individual or comprising more than 5 percent of their total revenue are asked to write an explanation of the situation to the INN board via email to INN Executive Director Sue Cross at sue@inn.org, or email to set up a conversation with a board task force. These situations are reviewed periodically by an INN board task force on membership qualifications.

Prospective members applying for membership should include an explanation of any variance from these standards with their application for the board to review. 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.

Please write to info@inn.org with any questions regarding membership standards or applications.