Trust and transparency in nonprofit journalism

In his Slate article “Nonprofit Journalism Comes at a Cost,” Jack Shafer lays out the dichotomy of entrepreneurship in journalism: specifically, between advertiser-funded and reader-funded news outlets.

Shafer argues that each, while obviously bringing different obstacles for the journalists, these business models for news outlets present their own implications on the content being produced. He mentions the common arguments against advertiser-funded and corporate-owned news—that these ties with funders and corporations limit what the journalists are allowed to cover and criticize—but he also warned that nonprofit journalism presents similarly worrisome caveats.

In my opinion, nonprofit journalism is the perfect solution to the issues presented by advertiser-fueled journalism, as long as it’s done right. The difference between corporate news outlets and nonprofit, reader-fueled journalism is that the latter promises transparency, and discloses more information from behind the scenes than corporate, traditional outlets disclose.

Additionally, nonprofit outlets accept smaller donations from their reader base rather than large sums of money from corporations. This does two things: It establishes a direct connection between the outlets and their reader base, and more importantly, it avoids journalists feeling explicit or implicit pressure from their funders.

In my opinion, Shafer’s article didn’t successfully compare corporate and nonprofit media outlets as two equal evils, as it set out to do. He claims that nonprofit journalism leads to foundations and philanthropists donating money solely to send journalists out to fight their battles. But, as countless outlets have shown, this isn’t an issue, especially in comparison with their corporate, advertiser-funded counterparts.