‘Watchdogs’ include HNF
By Carol Gentry
11/5/2010 © Health News Florida
Three online news organizations in the state, including Health News Florida, have been named among "the most interesting and credible nonprofit online publishers in the United States."
The three in Florida are among 60 non-profit news sites in a list compiled by the Investigative Reporting Workshop at the American University School of Communication. Others from Florida on the list are Broward Bulldog and the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting, based at Florida International University in Miami.
In "The New Journalism Ecosystem," AU professor and noted researcher Charles Lewis names organizations that are trying to plug the gaps in public-service reporting -- investigative projects and in-depth articles on public-policy issues --since the loss of one-third of newspaper reporter and editor jobs since 1992.
"The impact of newsroom contraction is obviously that certain public and private activities by those in power are simply no longer being covered," Lewis wrote.
Some of the news sites on the list are large and well-funded, including ProPublica and the Center for Public Integrity, which Lewis founded. But the three in Florida are small, with only five full-time staff in total (Editor's note: as of today at 2, the Workshop site erroneously listed Health News Florida with six full-time staff; the correct number is two. HNF has four part-timers).
Also, most of the 60 groups on the Workshop list were founded just in the past four years. Of the Florida groups, two were founded last year; HNF, the oldest, launched in spring 2007.
Lewis notes that the new journalism groups face a "Darwinian" struggle: "Some of these new organizations won’t make it, some will, and some new organizations will emerge later. This is a fluid, highly competitive, stressful environment, dependent on the vagaries of fate, the national and local economies, the moxie, stamina and entrepreneurialism of the founders, the steadfastness or fickleness of funders, the public resonance of the actual journalism, to name just a few variables."
He quotes Karen Dunlap, president of The Poynter Institute, as saying the new sites "offer solid ground for citizens to get information that they need, yet they operate under the glaring question of sustainability. As nonprofits, they more directly challenge citizens with the question: Who will pay for the news?”
Health News Florida and the two other Florida news sites on the list are members of the Investigative News Network, a consortium of non-profit news organizations that hopes to find a sustainable funding model for public-interest journalism.
Lewis noted there are also for-profit groups struggling to create legitimate news on serious subjects. He said he's got a big enough project tracking the non-profits, so he's leaving the study of for-profits to others.
--Carol Gentry, Editor, can be reached at 727-410-3266 or by e-mail.