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Newsonomics: On end games and end times
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Sept. 26, 2013, 1:16 p.m.

Two big names in journalism — Knight (Foundation) and Pew (Research Center) — recently had a get-together in D.C. to talk about the “sustainability, impact, and scaling questions” that nonprofit news orgs are facing. Elise Hu has a writeup at Knight. A few highlights:

“We charged into this space with our hearts” and not our heads for all of the right reasons, said Michael Maness, Knight’s vice president for journalism and media innovation. But that approach has created “a cascade of issues,” he said, which has highlighted the need to think more like developers and less like publishers…

“The thing that is most striking to me is how different the entrepreneurial impulses of the [nonprofit newsroom] leadership is,” said the Wyncote Foundation’s Feather Houstoun. “If you talk only about what proportion is spent here versus there … you’re missing that the leaders might just not have the entrepreneurial bone in their body. And that’s a big part of why we’re having this conversation. In the DNA of the organization, they’re never going to make it”…

Not only have the sustainable news nonprofits reduced their dependence on institutional foundation money, they have also devoted a good chunk of their spending to priorities beyond editorial expenses…

The development of business-thinking muscles and strength had led to a boon in earned revenue for places like the Texas Tribune, which breaks down its spending approximately in thirds, on editorial, business development and technology. But organizations that don’t have the kind of heft to get there are partnering up; for example, a merger between the nonprofit St. Louis Beacon and existing St. Louis Public Radio holds promise for both sides.

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