Collaboration is a hallmark of news nonprofits, new INN Index finds

Partnership can help extend reach, establish credibility and stretch limited resources

It was clear from the new Institute for Nonprofit News Index released last week that nonprofit news organizations are blazing a trail forward for the media industry in many ways.

That includes revenue growth, audience engagement and — most notable from my perspective — collaboration.

Collaborative journalism is built into the DNA of many news nonprofits. Created to serve the public interest, outlets ranging from ProPublica to NJ Spotlight regularly partner with other media to tell stories.

Could this be a harbinger of success? I think so.

Collaborative journalism is growing at a quick pace in the U.S., as the Center for Cooperative Media has documented, and it can have a direct, positive impact, as studies like this one from First Draft show. Collaboration helps to tell stories that otherwise might not be told (or told as well). We have dozens and dozens of examples in this database of collaborative reporting projects.

This screenshot taken from the INN Index report shows what kind of other organizations that news nonprofits collaborate with.

“Whether or not you share and whether or not you collaborate, to me seem to be key factors and maybe the key factor in how to structure your organization,” the report quoted Temple University professor Magda Konieczna, author of Journalism Without Profit: Making News When the Market Fails.

Sue Cross, executive director of INN, noted during the Index’s launch event last week in New York City that collaboration came up frequently in the research.

The Index found that 65% of news nonprofits have collaborated with digital news organizations, 61% have worked with radio partners and 58% have partnered with a newspaper.

According to the report:

“Beyond partnering for reach, nonprofit news outlets take advantage of content and reporting partnerships to leverage the advantages held by other newsrooms as well as to overcome some challenges they face as small operations. The survey finds that almost all nonprofit newsrooms engage in such collaborations and one in three do so frequently — more than once a month.”

The report noted that news nonprofits collaborate out of necessity at times, facing limited resources and time-intensive, expensive reporting. More common, however, is providing content to other outlets purely for distribution purposes, which can also be considered a form of partnership.

The Index noted that distribution pacts can help extend reach and build credibility, especially for newer news outlets.

Click here to read the full INN Index report. And to learn more about collaborative journalism, visit collaborativejournalism.org. If you’re interested in a training or consulting session about collaboration, let me know at murrayst@montclair.edu.


Stefanie Murray is director of the Center for Cooperative Media. Contact her at murrayst@montclair.edu.

About the Center for Cooperative Media: The Center is a grant-funded program of the School of Communication and Media at Montclair State University. The Center is supported with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, Democracy Fund, the New Jersey Local News Lab Fund of the Community Foundation of New Jersey and the Abrams Foundation. Its mission is to grow and strengthen local journalism, and in doing so serve New Jersey residents. For more information, visit CenterforCooperativeMedia.org.