Independent nonprofit news organizations are “Stronger together”
After a yearlong deliberative process aimed at increasing funding to our sector, 17 nonprofit news organizations from across the US have banded together to launch a new mutual aid network, the Alliance of Nonprofit News Outlets.
The genesis of ANNO came with my release of a July 2022 essay, “Share and Share Alike,” to over 2,000 of my peers at over 400 publications on the inadequacies of the loose system of competitive grants doled out by a relatively small number of foundations nationwide to a growing group of news nonprofits. That sparked months of conversations between thirty of the more than eighty outlets whose leaders or staffers joined a “nonprofit journalism funding” email list I started last fall.
Between December and March, ten of those news outlets drafted a “Joint Letter to Journalism Funders.” Our main asks were that “more foundation money overall be spent on the production of journalism by nonprofit news outlets (particularly at the local level with a focus on strengthening smaller outlets already operating in news deserts or incipient news deserts)” and “more of that money be given directly to as many nonprofit news outlets as possible … in the form of larger unrestricted general operating grants.”
By the end of April, 23 outlets had signed the letter. And on May 1, we sent it to 17 large and medium-sized foundations serving our sector.
Five foundations, including one major funder, then met with leaders of Joint Letter signatory news outlets between May and July. The conversations were cordial, and all participating nonprofit publications certainly felt like our call for more funding to our sector via direct general operating grants was heard and understood by foundation representatives.
However, it was evident that we needed an organization to represent the interests of nonprofit news outlets by continuing to apply pressure on funders for the long haul, if the hundreds of underfunded journalism organizations on the ground were going to actually see more money systematically and strategically donated to our sector in the years to come.
After that, most of the signatory news outlets decided to form ANNO to meet that need.
According to our mission statement, ANNO is “a network of nonprofit news outlets dedicated to facilitating constant communication between its member-outlets on issues of the day of mutual interest, sharing ideas for joint activities inside and outside of ANNO, and encouraging funders in every available forum to put more money into local and regional nonprofit journalism on an ongoing basis for the long haul—with a special focus on helping smaller news outlets.”
That said, we have absolutely no intention of competing with existing nonprofit news coalitions like the Institute for Nonprofit News, and the Local Independent Online News Publishers. ANNO’s work will be focused on pushing journalism funders to give more money to news nonprofits, give it directly to those organizations, and disburse it in the form of larger general operating grants rather than smaller, less effective, project grants.
Sixteen of the 17 ANNO founding outlets are members of other coalitions, and we all see value in their work. We just feel that those groups lack a core mandate to ensure that as much funder money as possible is flowing to the huge number of smaller news organizations that need it most. And it is in that critical area on which ANNO will focus our collective efforts.
This is not to say that we don’t think there’s room for improvement in existing coalitions. But rather than engage in what would likely devolve into self-defeating faction fighting in those spaces, we decided to build a new space that would simply do the things the others haven’t been doing and work in tandem with them.
But to ANNO member-outlets, it’s not just what we’re doing that matters, it’s how we do it. So, our Founding Document makes it clear that our new formation is fundamentally different from other coalitions of news nonprofits, from its extremely horizontal and democratic structure to its dictum of “no dues, no staff, no board, and no office.” The spirit of the group is perhaps best summed up by the slogan on our website: “Stronger Together.”
To us, it’s all about constant dialogue between peers, resulting in actions that we can take individually, in small groups, and together toward achieving our core goals and doing our part to rebuild America’s news infrastructure town by city by county—until we are sure that journalism in the interest of democracy is revived coast-to-coast.
As such, we are now pleased to invite all interested nonprofit news outlets to join ANNO. The process is quite simple: Just email us at [email protected] (or use our contact form) and tell us you’d like to sign up. If you’re a nonprofit news organization serving your community of interest with news and views on issues of the day, we’ll say, “Welcome! Here’s access to our discussion list and shared blog. Let’s get to work!”
Jason Pramas is executive director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, a founding member-outlet of the Alliance of Nonprofit News Outlets.
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