The Institute for Nonprofit News released its first INN Index, an in-depth look at the state of nonprofit news.

New INN Index tells story of a robust nonprofit news sector, with room to grow

So, how can we seed more nonprofit news outlets in New Jersey?

The Institute for Nonprofit News released its first INN Index today, an in-depth and fascinating look at the state of nonprofit news in the U.S., which has been growing quickly over the last decade.

The report is derived from a detailed questionnaire that 88 INN member outlets completed. Two of the key findings that really stood out to me were:

  • Revenue growth. More than half of news organizations surveyed generated $500,000 or more in revenue in 2017, with a third generating $1 million or more. This is a vast improvement over survey results from 2015.
  • A laser-focus on public interest journalism. Nonprofits focus on original and often explanatory reporting, and 40% of nonprofit news outlets are investigative in nature. Single-subject news outlets are one of the fastest-growing categories.

It’s no secret that nonprofit news sites started in the wake of cutbacks by traditional media to fill information gaps, and so it’s heartening to see data that clearly show this important part of the media industry is growing. It needs to.

Now we need it to grow in New Jersey.

There are four nonprofit news organizations currently operating and/or based in the Garden State:

  • NJ Spotlight, a fantastic statewide news outlet that focuses on matters of public policy.
  • Civic Story, an organization that produces news-oriented videos about civics and creative growth in cities around the state.
  • Delaware Currents, a digital magazine that covers issues related to the Delaware River and its watershed.
  • Shelterforce, a nonprofit print magazine, newsletter and website published by the National Housing Institute that covers community development, affordable housing and neighborhood stabilization nationwide.

All four do excellent work and have carved out their own niche. I encourage you to donate to all of them, especially during NewsMatch this fall; every dollar counts. (Click here to donate to NJ Spotlight, here for Civic Story, here for Shelterforce and here for Delaware Currents).

But, we need more of them.

Something we study at the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University is the constantly shifting landscape for media in New Jersey. We keep a close pulse on the news ecosystem in our state, which has been losing journalists steadily over the last 10 years.

John Mooney is a founder of NJ Spotlight, one of the most important nonprofit news outlets to start in New Jersey in the last several years.

We’ve helped to seed and train hyperlocal startups, and we do everything we can to support news entrepreneurs.

The INN Index clearly shows how nonprofit news is growing and how much of a need it is filling for communities across the country, and there is a huge opportunity for nonprofit startups in New Jersey — especially when it comes to single-subject outlets. Think about the possibilities if New Jersey were to have an investigative nonprofit, such as Wisconsin does with the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, or one covering health care, like North Carolina Health News. What about transit? Issues related to water and the coast?

For more inspiration, check out INN’s list of members.

If this interests you, please let me know. The Center would love to help connect potential entrepreneurs with potential funders, supporters and coaches. Email me at murrayst@montclair.edu.

Disclosure: The Center works regularly with INN and its membership under a Knight Foundation grant through which we are providing social media training and support to INN members. The Center has also applied to become an associate member of INN.


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.