Tell any university student the industry they want to enter has no prospects. It probably won’t end well. Unfortunately, this is the type of message constantly sent to journalism students. While journalism becomes more accessible, employment seems to decline Accessibility, along with non-profit journalism is quickly transforming the operation of traditional news networks.
The Investigative News Network is an international network of over fifty non-profit news organizations, whose mission is to “serve the public interest to benefit our free society.” The organization argues that democracies need journalism to survive. Journalism [particularly investigative journalism] provides transparency and an open dialogue that lead to an informed population and furthermore, a more vibrant political regime.
The Canadian Center for Investigative Reporting is one of the independent news organizations under the umbrella of the INN. The non-profit group works to educate the public on stories of national importance, including issues surrounding the First Nations Community and the criminal justice system.
Executive Director of CCIR, Bilbo Poynter has a positive view on non-profit journalism. When one news corporation provides free content, the others are forced to follow suit. Poynter has a simple philosophy: If you can’t beat them, join them.
“It’s no secret that shrinking newsroom budgets and a demanding 24-hour news cycle are pushing investigative journalism to the sidelines. Enter the non-profit, independent news media to save the day. The lesson is clear: innovate or die.”
Poynter argues that non-profit media is successfully surviving on funding, rather than customer revenue.
While I would love to agree with Mr. Poytner’s optimistic outlook, I’m sceptical. As news corporations continue to produce content for free, funding will inevitably run dry. First on the chopping block will most likely be the salary of the lowly reporter.
One only has to look at a story like Watergate to realize the value of investigative journalism. It requires skill and diligence on behalf of several people, including reporters and editors. Like most professions, journalists are trained to provide a service to the public. The value of this service, however, has been re-evaluated and even undermined in light of the emergence of free media.