Sue Cross

386. NewsMatch, INN and good news for independent, investigative news

In the past few years, the attacks on journalism – and journalists – have increased.

But so too have donations to independent, investigative news organizations, thanks in part to the efforts of NewsMatch.

“People are starting to look for news they can trust,” says Sue Cross, the executive director and CEO for the Institute for Nonprofit News.

Every year, around the holidays, NewsMatch announces a fundraising drive in which every dollar donated is doubled. NewsMatch is an initiative from some of the major journalism organizations, including the Knight Foundation, Democracy Fund, Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation and others, and is a concerted effort to make sure investigative journalism efforts are not lost or solely reliant on ad sales.

The general idea is a simple one: “If you build public support for your news in your community, we will match these individual donations. Aside from the financial impact, NewsMatch also does … this end-of-year campaign. It has generated more than $14 million for news organizations.”

NewsMatch makes it easy for people to donate as well, helping to find individual journalists, or outlets in their home cities, or to a topic of interest. Donations are matched through the end of the year.

“The future of news is how much communities support it and individuals support it,” Cross says.

She knows firsthand how important it is to support local and independent journalism, and it’s something she sees as an increasing priority not just in the United States but around the world.

INN started in 2009 when a group of investigative journalists from 27 organizations, “essentially the entire nonprofit universe at the time,” came together to discuss the future of their profession in light of the economic slump.

“They set aside competition, which is hard for investigative reporters to do, and said investigative reporting is crucial to our democracy and it’s under threat, so we’re going to form this consortium to try and sustain it,” she says.

Now INN has grown to include international outlets and has helped to increase the number of nonprofit news organizations tenfold, with 3,000 people working in nonprofit news in the U.S. and more than 2,000 of those positions are journalists in the field.

“Our goal is to keep that going and, in the next 10 years, generate another tenfold growth,” Cross says. “We’d like to see 20,000 journalists working in public service, essentially. … In essence, we’re trying to recreate journalism, or a big part of it, as a public trust, rather than a for-profit business.”

When local news outlets close their doors, that eliminates someone paying attention to what’s going on at city hall or the statehouse, she says. Funding investigative journalism and independent outlets go hand-in-hand.  

The silver lining here, and there is one, is that the latest INN index found independent outlets are on something of a growth swing, with at least one new outlet opening each month for the last 12 years, and most of the support for those outlets is coming from small, individual donors.

“Average people are stepping up to support, in many cases, local newsrooms, but also ones that cover investigative news,” Cross says. “These are donations from individual people, average citizens, giving in many cases small amounts, or major amounts, but they’re supporting local news organizations in a very direct way.”

Sue Cross, executive director and CEO for the Institute for Nonprofit News, joins producer Michael O’Connell to share some good news on the state of investigative and independent journalism and how donors have through the end of the year to double their contribution to small newsrooms across the country via NewsMatch.

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