Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Nonprofit newsroom? Hey, it's an option!

Rachel Hyden


The advertising industry is ruling the media, and as journalism professionals it’s time we do something about it. We all know that this industry relies heavily on the revenue from advertisements, so much that unethical situations like those we read for class today can arise. We’re losing the authenticity of our news, and it’s beginning to seem like what we see on TV and read in the paper really isn’t the half of what’s actually going on out in the world. If stories about bad car dealers and bad restaurants aren’t being run because the company owners are purchasing excessive advertising, not only are we depriving our audience of newsworthy stories, but we’re partaking in unethical practices! So how can we fix it?

Well, one solution is the nonprofit newsroom. Take for example ProPublica, that’s mission is “To expose abuses of power and betrayals of the public trust by government, business, and other institutions, using the moral force of investigative journalism to spur reform through the sustained spotlighting of wrongdoing.” Free from the restraints of advertisers, ProPublica has the ability to write about what the people should know, not what the advertisers want them to know. Interestingly enough, however, Propublica is actually beginning a trial of running ads. While this does sound a bit menacing to the quality of Propublica’s journalism, I have a feeling it won’t have a major effect. ProPublica's general manager Richard Tofel claimed the organization would deny any advertisement that would compromise its’ independence, and Propublica has already laid out it’ advertising acceptability policy.

Of course a nonprofit newsroom isn’t always the answer, so maybe it’s time for the industry to become a little more innovative when it comes to securing funds for publishing. For instance, The Chronicle doesn’t just sell ads that appear in their paper or on their site, they sell their consulting expertise to local businesses! For instance, for $500 a month a business will receive a multitude of internet service advice from The Chronicle staff, including improvements to the businesses website as well as selling ads that are more likely to appear on Yahoo! or Facebook! Pretty awesome!

So it’s fairly obvious that the time is now to change the direction of the media industry. The people deserve their news and it’s our job to ensure that they get it!

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