“WBAI-FM Lays Off Most of Staff.” By Ben Sisario. New York Times. August 11, 2013.
“WBAI-FM Lays Off Most of Staff.” By Ben Sisario. New York Times. August 11, 2013.
ABOUT NONPROFIT NEWS & COMMENT
Hauser Institute for Civil Society, Center for Public Leadership, Harvard University
The nonprofit sector — the universe of associations, civil society, philanthropy, and voluntary action — is the most rapidly growing and changing organizational domain in the world.
Once considered an adjunct of government, over the past half century nonprofits have taken on many of the tasks of government and play key roles in the process of public governance, not only as sources of policy and vehicles for advocacy and political mobilization, but also as providers of a wide range of public services.
Because nonprofits operate in virtually every industry and in many jurisdictions — global, national, state, and local –, it is extraordinarily difficult to track significant the emerging issues and trends that affect them. This difficulty is compounded by the fact that press coverage of nonprofits is fragmentary and often shallow and because scholarship is highly specialized and balkanized.
Through weekly global surveys of major newspapers, periodicals, broadcast media, and on-line news sources, this blog brings to readers’ attention important stories and will, through commentaries, link those news accounts to pertinent scholarship in order to offer in-depth understanding of important emerging issues and trends. The blog will also take note of scholarly books and articles of potential significance to practitioners, policy makers, and other thoughtful readers.
Using Nonprofit News & Comment
Blog entries appear as “Weekly News Summaries” — compilations of news article headlines. Each entry includes a link to the original source and the full text of the story. Because of the on-going monetization of on-line newspapers and other media, full texts may not be available for all stories.
Stories relating to the United States are organized topically by type of organization or activity. International stories are organized by country and, in certain instances, by topic (such as “Catholic Sex Abuse Scandal” and “Sustainable Development”). All stories are archived by topic and date.
Comments or questions about Nonprofit News & Comment should be directed to Peter Dobkin Hall, Senior Research Fellow, Hauser Institute for Civil Society, Center for Public Leadership, Harvard University.
“Nonprofit news sites need business help, study says; These small operations need to broaden their fundraising and marketing efforts, but say they don’t have enough time to focus on those aspects of the business.” Crain’s New York Business/Associated Press. June 10, 2013.
“Foundation Says It Regrets Payment to Disgraced Journalist.” By Jennifer Schuessler. New York Times. February 14, 2013. The Knight Foundation says that it regrets paying a $20,000 honorarium to Jonah Lehrer, the disgraced journalist whose appearance at a Knight conference in Miami on Tuesday drew sharp criticism on Twitter and elsewhere. “In retrospect, as a foundation that has long stood for quality journalism, paying a speaker’s fee was inappropriate,” the foundation said in a statement posted on its blog. “Controversial speakers should have platforms, but Knight Foundation should not have put itself into a position tantamount to rewarding people who have violated the basic tenets of journalism. We regret our mistake.” The foundation noted that it began discussing the appearance with Mr. Lehrer before he resigned last summer from The New Yorker after revelations that he had recycled past work in blog posts and fabricated quotations in his best-selling book “Imagine.” While the fee is not unusual for high-profile speakers, the statement continued, “it was simply not something Knight Foundation, given our values, should have paid.” The Knight Foundation, whose assets totaled nearly $2.2 billion in 2011, is dedicated to supporting “transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts,” according to its mission statement. The media critic Jim Romenesko noted on his blog that the $20,000 it paid to Mr. Lehrer, who spoke at a “media learning seminar” for community foundations, was as much as it gave the Miami-Dade Public Library in 2011 “to encourage creative writing among the communities teens” and slightly less than the $25,000 it gave to the Minnesota State Fair “for a participatory public art experience called the giant sing-along.”
“At WFMU, Loyal Fans Step in to Save the Day.” By Andy Battaglia. Wall Street Journal. January 10, 2013. Jersey City’s WFMU is hosting a benefit in Brooklyn this weekend. Fundraisers are typical for the proudly listener-supported station—as is the record fair, a near-religious experience for the area’s analog audiophiles—but this one is uncommon for its cause: $250,000 in losses from damage incurred as a result of Hurricane Sandy. The storm silenced WFMU, which is housed just two blocks from the Hudson River, but not for long. When power went out in the studio building, the station’s music obsessives went to work from other locations. Damages were estimated at $250,000, an imposing sum for a famously idiosyncratic operation run largely by volunteers. But WFMU righted itself, all things considered, with alacrity. Thanks to its listener-supported culture, borne from a tradition of pledge drives aided by vaunted local bands (Yo La Tengo, Sonic Youth) and talk-radio-friendly comedians (Tom Scharpling, Patton Oswalt), the station raised the money it needed most urgently online in just three weeks. “FMU is a fantastic, beautiful radio station, one of the best in the country if not the world,” said Jon Spencer, whose band performed on-air at the station just days before Sandy. “We need more stations like FMU, which has turned me on to all sorts of crazy ideas and sounds and new things.” That sense of community has carried over to every aspect of the enterprise. “Insurance didn’t give us any money and all these other institutions that we hoped might give gave us nothing, but it was hard to be angry when so many I wasn’t expecting did,” Mr. Freeman said. “It was our community that came through. It was the only thing we had.”
“How Punch Protected the Times.” By Joe Nocera. New York Times. October 1, 2012. In 1969, shares of The New York Times Company began to be listed on the American Stock Exchange. The driving force behind the listing was the company’s chairman and chief executive, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, who was then 43 and had been at the helm for six years. Eager to expand the company, he needed a listed stock that the company could use to make deals. But a listed stock had to have voting rights. And that conflicted with another of Sulzberger’s goals: to ensure that his family, which had owned the paper since 1896, would remain in control of the company and its flagship newspaper. Since the 1950s, the company had given stock to favored employees and others, stock that could be bought and sold but had no voting rights. The solution was to give that stock — Class A shares, they were called — some voting rights, but not enough to threaten the family’s control. The Class B shares, held largely in a family trust, still gave the Sulzbergers the power to elect around 70 percent of the board. Sulzberger, who was known as Punch, died on Saturday. In the encomiums that followed, much was made of his fierce dedication to the First Amendment and his overseeing the remaking of The Times, especially the addition of feature sections that brought new advertising, and new life, to “The Gray Lady.” In recent years, that dedication has been sorely tested. As advertising gravitated away from the printed page and toward the Internet, Times Company stock has been hit hard. Profits have declined. In 2009, the company eliminated the dividend, which had been a source of cash for family members. At Dow Jones & Company, the ruling Bancroft family decided to sell to Rupert Murdoch and the News Corporation. By all appearances, the Sulzbergers never flinched. None of which would have mattered without the protection provided by the dual class of shares. Inevitably, as the newspaper business declined, financial engineers came knocking. I understand that the Sulzbergers have made their share of mistakes, such as the purchase of The Boston Globe for $1.1 billion in 1993. But there is something both straightforward and honest about their approach. If you buy New York Times stock, you are buying into the notion that you’ll let the family run the show, as it has done for more than a century. And the Sulzbergers will put The Times’s journalism ahead of all else, because that is what is in the family’s DNA. The bet Punch Sulzberger made his whole career is that people wanted — and would pay for — great journalism. Today, despite an uncertain future, his heirs are making the same bet. The protection afforded them by the dual-class structure has allowed the current chairman, Arthur Sulzberger Jr., and the rest of the family to take the long view without worrying about corporate raiders or hedge fund managers.
“Innovation in Journalism Goes Begging for Support.” By David Carr. New York Times. September 9, 2012. Journalism has a shortage of many things: capital, advertisers and, in some instances, readers. But certainly its most precious commodity is innovation. Again and again, the business struggles to get out of the rut that put it on a road to ruin in the first place. Consider the fate of the Web site Homicide Watch DC. When it popped up out of nowhere with a way of tracking every murder in Washington, it seemed likely that a big news organization would snap it up or that foundations would trip over themselves to shove money at them. It hasn’t turned out that way. Two years after it began, Homicide Watch is on hiatus and its founders, Laura and Chris Amico, find themselves with the tin cup out on Kickstarter looking for money to sustain the site. At the heart of Homicide Watch is its mission statement: “Mark every death. Remember every victim. Follow every case.” It’s a remarkable thing to behold — part database, part news site, it also serves as a kind of digital memorial for homicide victims in Washington. Their pictures are published, their cases are followed and their deaths are acknowledged as a meaningful event in the life of the city. Neither The Washington Post nor the weekly Washington City Paper covers homicide comprehensively — come to think of it, almost no major newspaper does. It is difficult but important work that current business models won’t accommodate, and Homicide Watch reaches an underserved community, since most of the victims are black. But even though it has received all kinds of notice in the press and went from 500 page views a month to more than 300,000, it remained the handiwork of a wife and husband team. “We reached a tipping point about nine months ago, when I think everybody just assumed we had been funded because of the buzz and coverage,” Laura Amico said. “But the fact of the matter is, no one was funding it but us. We have this high visibility, but every door that we knocked on was closed to us.”
“On Campus, an Experiment to Save Local News.” By Christine Haughney. New York Times. September 9, 2012. — From the rattling cicadas at twilight to the willow trees bending in the late summer heat, the lush campus of Mercer University seems like the last place to find one of the nation’s boldest journalism experiments. This fall, Mercer, a 179-year-old former Baptist school, is starting an ambitious $5.6 million project to try to save local journalism by inviting both the Macon newspaper and a Georgia Public Radio station onto its campus. Reporters and editors for the 186-year-old paper The Telegraph and the radio station will work out of the campus’s new journalism center, alongside students whom the university expects will do legwork for newspaper and public radio reports, with guidance from their professors and working journalists. It’s a plan born in part of desperation. Like many newspapers, The Telegraph has lost circulation and advertising revenue in the last decade, and the public radio station was forced to trim down to one staff member during the recession. William D. Underwood, Mercer’s president, expects that by applying what he calls a medical residency model to journalism, all of these players may give the struggling industry a chance to stay alive. “I want young people to be able to practice journalism ethically and competently the day they graduate,” Mr. Underwood said. “I have a concern about the future of local print journalism. There’s nothing more vital to a functioning democracy.” Mercer’s is one of several such collaborations across the country. A 2011 study by the New America Foundation called on journalism schools to embrace the model of an “anchor institution” and do what they can to help local media outlets.
“Mitt Romney: Slash Amtrak, PBS Funding, But Defense Cuts And Middle Class Tax Cuts Off The Table.” By Sam Stein. Huffington Post. August 15, 2012. In an interview with Fortune Magazine that was published on Wednesday morning, Mitt Romney gave a bit more detail than normal about how he would fulfill his promise to get the nation on track towards fiscal balance. But the proposals he laid out largely ducked the so-called “painful” choices that experts insist must be made, and seemed to be drawn from rosy assumptions about the immediate political and economic future. At one point, Romney was asked to respond to a Tax Policy Center analysis that concluded he would need to take away tax benefits that primarily help the middle class if he wanted his broader proposals to be deficit neutral. Romney’s campaign has insisted that they can trim federal spending enough to achieve fiscal balance, but in the Fortune interview, the items Romney pinpointed appeared to be low-hanging fruit. Romney identified subsidies for Amtrak, PBS, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities as things he would eliminate. The government spends $444 million a year on the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (the parent organization of PBS); Amtrak received $1.56 billion in federal funding in 2010, with $1.3 billion in stimulus funds; while the National Endowment of the Arts lists the current level of federal funding at approximately $146 million.
Peter Dobkin Hall August 8, 2012 at 12:41 pm 
Ruth: I am sorry that you took as criticism my comparison of NPQ’s Newswire and Hauser’s Nonprofit News & Comment.
The comparison was intended to highlight the differences between the two features in order to highlight the ways in which they complement one another.
In comparing on a daily basis the stories each feature gleans from the media, I find very little duplication — in large part because Newswire is able to survey US newspaper coverage far more thoroughly than News & Comment can because of its more global focus.
Newswire is made all the more valuable because it is nested in the magazine’s website, which links it to your on-going commentaries on a wide variety of important topics relating to the sector, including matters (like law and public policy) to which the news feed itself gives relatively little attention.
Finally, as you know, I’m an old friend of NPQ, dating back to when it was the New England Nonprofit Quarterly (on whose advisory board I once served). The magazine, both hard copy and on-line, offers the most informed and independent-minded coverage of the nonprofit sector. Newswire is yet another gift to all if us who are concerned about the future on nonprofitdom.
Peter Dobkin Hall
ruth mccambridge August 7, 2012 at 9:23 pm
We were a bit surprised by the tone and inaccuracies of this post (for instance, the assertion that we confine ourselves to 501 (c) 3?s) “conventionally assumed to be the nonprofit sector”. We have never done so and do so now less than ever, covering philanthropy, non-institutionalized movements and even business and governments involvement in civil society. Or the suggestion that we do not cover general economic, political and social trends affecting civil society… that particular claim might cause more than a bit of cognitive dissonance among our readers! I would say that type of coverage may be one of the things we are most well known (and occasionally reviled) for.
But Peter, again, we are surprised because there is indeed room in this sector for the both of us. As you say we are not rivals in the least. I fear that someone has given you that impression. It never occurred to us.
There are some major differences between Nonprofit News and Cooment and us . NPQ purposefully works with practitioners as lay journalists spread all over the country and their reporting and commentary is mixed in with voices of “experts” and academics. This brings something different and wonderful to our mix to be sure. Just as you have someything different and wonderful here.
I would encourage anyone reading this post to check out the Newswire and our website for themselves (Peter was nice enough to provide a link). You may come away with a different impression than might be taken away from this post.
Editor in Chief