Jack Shafer on the trouble with philanthropy-funded journalism

Slate’s Jack Shafer has a typically trenchant and insightful piece on the current great hope of news journalism: philanthropy.

All this silly money arriving in the nick of time to fund what some like to call “serious journalism” can only be applauded. Every community should be fortunate enough to have a nonprofit like the¬†New Haven Independent walking the beat for it.

But before we get out the party hats and noise-makers to celebrate the rise of nonprofit journalism, here’s the bad news. In the current arrangement, we’re substituting one flawed business model for another. For-profit newspapers lose money accidentally. Nonprofit news operations lose money¬†deliberately. No matter how good the nonprofit operation is, it always ends up sustaining itself with handouts, and handouts come with conditions.

Shafer concludes that “the rise of nonprofit journalism comes at a price. Be prepared to pay it.”

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