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The INN Index

Quality of Coverage

The term nonprofit news encompasses different kinds of journalism — local news of the day, explanatory reporting on a single or interconnected issue, and investigative reporting.

Naming and understanding the different types of nonprofit news outlets is needed to track their availability and strength, and to understand how journalistic purpose influences an outlet’s revenue model, audience strategy and story production.  

Nonprofit news produces in-depth reporting

In 2023, 6 in 10 organizations focused primarily on in-depth, time-intensive news, including investigations and explanatory reporting. These organizations invest in more cost-intensive endeavors like investigating injustices or communicating complicated topics to audiences (including local politics, government, environment and climate), often resulting in fewer, deeper stories than their news of the day peers. 

One-eighth of outlets focus entirely on covering a single topic like criminal justice, education or gun violence. 

Forty-eight percent of outlets surveyed in 2023 focused on local news, up slightly from 46% in 2022. Most of the growth in nonprofit news continued in this local “news and events” sector, although the rate of growth slowed slightly in 2023. Local outlets often act as civic connectors, linking individuals to their place, local government, and community services.

The scope of the nonprofit news industry has changed in the last several years. When the Institute for Nonprofit News first launched in 2009, most nonprofit news outlets were focused on investigative and explanatory journalism. Over the last decade and particularly since 2017, a wave of local news outlets entered the fold. Today, local outlets continue to launch and join INN at a faster rate than investigative and explanatory outlets. INN expects local outlets providing “news of the day” to make up the majority of nonprofit news by 2025. 

Who does nonprofit news serve? 

Many nonprofit news outlets say they serve populations historically underserved by commercial media, including people of color as well as rural and low-income communities. Serving communities of color is either the primary mission or one of several core priorities, as outlined in their mission statement, for 60% of nonprofit news outlets. More than half say they target an underserved community that is not defined by race or ethnicity — typically low-income, rural and immigrant communities. 


About half (48%) of outlets say rural communities are a primary target audience of their coverage. INN’s Rural News Network (RNN) — a reporting consortium connecting more than 75 outlets serving rural America — is leveraging its national reach to sustain news operations, generate and share stories and identify trends across 47 states.

Nonprofit news outlets often collaborate editorially to produce more in-depth reporting and stories. A strong majority of outlets, 75%, participated in an editorial collaboration in 2022, with about half of them participating in four or more editorial collaborations. 

Related: Service journalism during a year of crisis: How INN members provide crucial information to communities

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