Last week, one of our professors former colleagues from The Boston Phoenix came and chatted with the class about the future of nonprofit journalism, and her experience as a reporter at the Center for Public Integrity.
Kristen Lombardi is currently a Nieman Fellow at Harvard, and I’m excited to hear her speak again this weekend at the 2012 Christopher J. Georges Conference on College Journalism. At the Center for Public Integrity, Lombardi has worked on in-depth, long term stories most career journalists will never get to experience. Spending at least a year on projects, Lombardi shed light on sexual assault on college campuses and dangerous mining styles in Appalachia.
The biggest takeaways from her talk for me were two aspects: how nonprofit journalism works and its uncertain future, and the presentation of long form, investigative journalism.
Personally, nonprofit models like Lombardi’s employer and ProPublica have always appealed to me as a future career asperiation – the idea of working for an organization that works for no one and wants to serve the public interest and fix large, institutional problems is something I can only dream of while in J-School. However, I didn’t understand quite how it worked. Lombardi talked about how she will have to go to fundraisers and talk about her projects, and in addition to a reporter act as a fundraiser. But this is how she has the freedom to work on one story for 18 months, and let it naturally develop instead of feeling the pressure of arbitrarily imposed deadlines. For me, I think the trade off would definitely be worth it, and despite some doubts about the current business model, I think with enough effort this will be more than just a phase of journalism.
Also, I had never given much thought as to how to convey the information uncovered to a larger audience. The idea of partnerships with larger organizations and regional outfits seems to be really effective – enabling smaller news organization to take the information she uncovered and then localize it makes sense to have the biggest impact. The concept of sharing the information for the greater good makes a lot of sense, and is beneficial to everyone involved. Additionally, breaking up the story into different segments to make it more easily digestible is something I hadn’t given much thought, but when reading her work it made a lot of sense.