Jan Parks and her friend Sharon Eggers protest near former Minnesota Congressman Erik Paulsen’s office in the spring of 2017.

Jan Parks spent 34 years teaching English and journalism to junior and senior high students in Bloomington, Minnesota public schools. She served as advisor to the high school student newspaper and yearbook staffs, winning three All American and numerous First Class awards from the Minnesota High School Press Association along the way. Parks has a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Nebraska and a Masters Degree in Women’s Studies from Hamline University.

Resisting in Retirement

Trump Presidency Helped Me Discover My Inner Activist


March 2019

BY JAN PARKS

Political activism was never on my bucket list. When I retired from teaching in 2004, after more than three decades of intense and wonderful years, I told my friends that at long last I’d have time for recipes, dinner parties, and travel. No rocking chairs—just relaxation!

But I ended up getting restless, and started doing occasional volunteer work, political volunteer work. For example, I especially enjoyed volunteering for 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. Her message of equality and empowerment captivated me. I can’t say I was intensely involved in her campaign, but I made donations and I was a phone bank caller.

Hillary was a great candidate—brilliant, articulate, experienced. Her opponent, Donald Trump, was magnificently flawed—he seemed unelectable. But as it turned out, my efforts to lift Clinton into the White House, as the first female president in American history, weren’t enough. Her loss to Trump on November 8, 2016 shattered me. Like so many people, I brooded and became a keyboard activist on Facebook. I soon realized I was suffering from depression because of Trump and his administration.  (more…)

Bill Birnbauer was a newspaper reporter and editor for more than 30 years. He is a long-standing member of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, a former John S. Knight Journalism Fellow at Stanford University, and an adjunct senior lecturer in journalism at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia where he’s based. Birnbauer is the author of the new book The Rise of NonProfit Investigative Journalism in the United States.

Staying Alive

Nonprofit journalism grows and struggles simultaneously


April 2019

BY BILL BIRNBAUER

In downtown San Francisco, Mother Jones’s CEO Monika Bauerlein is grappling with the final fact checking of an investigative story about the President’s financial dealings.

In New York City, the Marshall Project’s editor-in-chief Bill Keller is choreographing a partnership with the Los Angeles Times that will assess the impact of reduced incarceration on crime rates.

At the Wall Street end of Manhattan, ProPublica’s president Dick Tofel is surprised and delighted at the rapid growth in the number of individual donors to his organization.

And in FairWarning’s one-room office in Pasadena, California, founder and editorial director Myron Levin is figuring out his next move in a bid to extract documents relating to enforcement programs operated by the U.S. Labor Department.

These journalists are part of an expanding sector of accountability journalism in the United States that operates under a nonprofit business model. Unlike commercial media that are funded by advertising and subscriptions, nonprofit news sites depend on grants from foundations, wealthy supporters, and, to a lesser extent, individual donors and fundraising activities.

The nonprofit investigative and public service journalism sector grew rapidly after the 2007–2009 global financial crisis that devastated commercial media revenues, leading to the loss of tens of thousands of journalism jobs and concern over the future of quality journalism. Since then, the nonprofit news sector has continued expanding, matured, and contributed to democratic processes well beyond its size.

The Institute for Nonprofit News, an association whose members (including The Reporters Inc.) are nonprofit investigative and public interest news organizations, has nearly 200 member organizations across the U.S. after being founded in 2009 with just 27 members. More than 100 of the institute’s nonprofit news organizations were created between 2007 and 2017. A survey of its nonprofit news organizations by the institute recently found they had a combined revenue total approaching $350 million in 2017. There are an additional 110 or so nonprofit accountability news organizations in the United States that are not members of the institute. America, for all its economic, racial, political, and social issues, has at least some corrective resources when activities that support democracy are said to be at risk.

In a departure from traditional journalistic practice, many of the country’s most prestigious commercial and public media organizations now partner with and publish stories written by nonprofit center reporters. This shift represents a significant change given the distrust and wariness by mainstream media toward externally produced stories and the culture of competition between newsrooms. “Collaboration is maybe the most dramatic change I have seen in newsroom culture in my lifetime,” observed Keller, a former New York Times’ executive editor.

 

New collaborations: a mutual benefit

 

On November 26, 2008, the Indian financial center of Mumbai was rocked by a series of terrorist attacks that killed 166 people and wounded more than 300. Ten attackers, identified later as members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba organization, targeted American and British tourists. Using automatic (more…)