Wick Communications

Nonprofit, not non-business

In Business, Media, nonprofit on 5 Oct 2018 at 6:52 pm

The nonprofit news is in and the word is good. OK, promising.

The Institute of Nonprofit News released findings from a landmark survey of its members at meetings on both coasts on Friday. The announcement at Stanford was hosted by the JSK Fellowship program and a few dozen funders, publishers and journalists were in attendance to hear that business models were maturing and that local, statewide and even global operations were doing more to diversify their revenue streams. It was good to hear that so many of these important news sources are reaching sustainability.

The survey included 88 journalistic nonprofits that answered questions in spring of 2018. It collected 200 data points and is the most comprehensive study of the space to date.

Some facts:

  • Three-fourths of the nonprofits surveyed are less than 10 years old.
  • Together, they boast annual revenues of about $350 million.
  • About 3,000 people work for these entities; 2,200 are journalists.
  • More than half focus on investigations or analysis and nearly three-fourths cover some aspect of government policy. …

Following steep cutbacks in the for-profit industry, the nonprofit sector exploded around 2010. Too many began with an initial grant and no plan beyond that. Those that remain increasingly seek to diversify their revenue streams and to be less dependent on a single, often issue-oriented, foundation or donor. Researchers for INN found that organizations that are more than a decade old have more online reach, higher budgets and spend about twice as much (though still only 15 percent of revenues) on revenue generation efforts.

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Finding time for solutions

In journalism on 16 Jul 2018 at 8:55 am

I had been conscripted, really. It wasn’t my idea to stand before 50 or so journalists and ask them to please come be part of my group rather than one of the others forming around equally important concepts. But there I was, on a hot and sunny Portland Saturday. I knew nobody. Here goes.

“OK kind people,” I began. “How can those of us in small newsrooms, amid all the cutbacks we’ve all experienced and the new responsibilities we all have as a result, find time for solutions in addition to problems.”

It was really Solutions Journalism Network regional leader Linda Shaw’s question. I think she culled from a survey of participants at the SJN West Coast gathering on July 14. However it emerged, it was the key problem for many and many in attendance. Many of us spend too much time cataloguing problems all day, every day. How do we make the next step into leading a conversation that could change society for the better? Isn’t that what journalists are supposed to do?

Eeeeerrrrrrkkkk! Crash. (Insert your own trainwreck sound here.) Hold on a minute here. I confess that I had to wallow in that concept for a while before I got it. This “solutions” thing can sound suspiciously like advocacy. Personally, I didn’t get into journalism to push a cause. Most of us got into the business thinking that you publish the truth and it will set us all free. Folks simply will understand the president is a crook or that we need to mitigate climate change. We don’t present solutions… right? 

On the other side of the pen

In Media, Newspapers, publishing on 7 Jun 2018 at 10:43 am

The Chronicle asked me to take a photo of our building.

Just as every doctor would learn from being a patient, every reporter ought to be interviewed once in a while. It’s instructive.

This week, I was interviewed twice. Reporters from the San Francisco Chronicle and KQED radio called to ask me about the transition of our newspaper, the Half Moon Bay Review, from an out-of-state corporation to local hands. It’s an exciting time and I primed the publicity pump with an email to the Chronicle.

So, I was pleased to hear from a Chronicle reporter. We talked for about 10 minutes and I thought she asked the right questions. The result was a 250-word take on the sale that was entirely sufficient for readers in San Francisco.

It was not, however, the story I would have written. It lacked the sweep of the tale. It didn’t cover all the points needed to truly understand how a group of readers came to purchase a newspaper, the angst as other potential buyers circled, the concern we all had for our jobs. There was originally a stray apostrophe in my quote!

In other words, it was fine. And I was getting a taste of what it’s like to have no control over my words once they were out of my mouth. I’m sure hundreds of people I’ve interviewed over the years would be pleased to know I suddenly shared their chagrin. (Editors subsequently cleaned up the story a tad and it ran in the paper two days after it appeared online.) …