What is the Difference Between Nonprofit Journalism and Traditional Journalism? 

With the 24-hour news cycle and a constant stream of news updates available at our fingertips, it’s easy to become overwhelmed or jaded by current events. It can be difficult to know who or what to trust. In addition, with so many news sources available, it’s hard to know which ones are reputable. In this age of “fake news,” it’s more important than ever to be discerning about the sources you’re getting your information from. 

One way to tell if a news source is reputable is to look at its funding model. Nonprofit journalism and traditional journalism both have different ways of generating revenue and this affects the type and quality of content that they produce. Here’s a breakdown of the key differences between nonprofit journalism and traditional journalism: 


Funding Model

Nonprofit journalism is usually funded through grants, donations, or membership fees while traditional journalism is mostly dependent on advertising dollars. Because they have different funding models, this affects the type of content that each produces. 

For example, because advertising dollars are often contingent on clicks, traditional journalists may be more likely to write headlines that are inflammatory or clickbait in order to generate more web traffic. This isn’t necessarily true for all traditional news sources, but it is something to be aware of.

On the other hand, because nonprofit journalists don’t have to worry about clicks and ad revenue, they can focus on producing high-quality investigative pieces or in-depth stories without worrying about whether or not they will generate enough web traffic. 


Audience Engagement

Another key difference between nonprofit journalism and traditional journalism is how they view their audience. For traditional journalists, the audience is mostly passive; they simply consume the content that’s produced without much interaction with the journalist or news outlet. On the other hand, nonprofit journalists see their audience as more participating; they want their readers to be engaged and involved in the journalistic process. 

An example of this would be a traditional journalist writing an article about a controversial issue and then sharing it on social media with a call to action for people to share their thoughts in the comments section. A nonprofit journalist would take this one step further by actually reaching out to members of the community affected by the issue and incorporating their perspectives into the story itself. 

This difference in how journalists view their audience affects the type and quality of content that each produces; nonprofit journalists are more likely to focus on stories that serve the public good while traditional journalists may produce stories that will generate clicks and ad revenue. 


Quality Control    

Both types of journalism strive for accuracy but because they have different funding models, there may be different motivations for achieving accuracy. Traditional journalists may be under pressure from their bosses or advertisers to achieve certain viewership targets which could lead them to cut corners when it comes to verifying sources or doing fact-checking. On the other hand, because nonprofit journalists don’t have these same pressures, they may be able to spend more time double-checking sources and ensuring that their stories are accurate before publishing them.   

When it comes to quality control, each type of journalist has a different process. Traditional journalists usually have editors who check stories for errors before they’re published while nonprofit journalists may rely more on peer review processes or involve community members in fact-checking stories before publication. 

As you can see, there are some key differences between nonprofit journalism and traditional journalism including their funding models, audience engagement strategies, and processes for ensuring accuracy and quality control. So the next time you’re reading an article online or watching the news on TV, take a moment to think about where that particular story is coming from and what motivations might be behind it. And remember, just because something is published doesn’t mean it’s automatically true. Be sure to practice media literacy and always question everything you read (or watch).

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