Nonprofit Media

This nation has a proud history of journalism, long tied most closely to newspapers. But the newspaper industry, as we know, has experienced a severe decline in recent years. The signs of this decline were evident to many of us in my hometown of Detroit back in 1987, when our two highly competitive newspapers, the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News, announced the formation of a joint operating agreement (JOA). This allowed the two newspapers to combine their business operation, while keeping their editorial staffs separate. Despite reassurances from both news organizations that robust local news coverage would continue, it was pretty clear that change was in the air for the news business, and it remained to be seen how well the local community would be served.

Over the last several decades, accountability reporting, especially at the local level, has contracted dramatically, with potentially grave consequences for communities, government responsiveness, and democracy. Nonprofit media has the potential to partly fill this vacuum but faces obstacles as a result of outdated IRS rules.