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On the Frontlines with Nonprofit News – Part 1

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

tablet newspapers

As recent studies by the Pew Research Center have documented, newspaper reporting at the state government level is on the decline. Here at the Franklin Center, one of the key things we’ve already explored is how Pew’s research found that nontraditional media are increasingly picking up the important reporting task of keeping the public informed about state level activity. Today we’ll examine one segment of this “nontraditional” media—nonprofit news.

So What is Nonprofit News?

Overall, a nonprofit news organization’s business operation is designed to sustain itself and serve its mission rather than generate dividends for investors. Typically, they seek IRS 501(c)(3) status or they fall under the status of a sponsoring organization such as a think tank, university, or other nonprofit organization.

In June 2013 the Pew Research Center identified 172 digital nonprofit news outlets and reviewed their funding sources and the focus of their operations.They also provided a listing of Nonprofit News Sites with a more detailed look at the stories they generate and their staffing levels. Their full report can be found at Nonprofit Journalism: A Growing but Fragile Part of the U.S. News System.

They found that all but 9 states have at least one nonprofit online news organization. They further noted that more than a third (38%) of nonprofit outlets focus on state-level news, while 29% focus on metro-level, 15% national, 8% hyper-local, 6% international, and 4% regional.

Financial Support

The Pew report on nonprofits focused on the fragile business foundation for these operations. They cite the need to find staff on the business and fundraising side for a number of these organizations. In fact, of the 172 nonprofit organizations their research documented in 2012, their current online listing of nonprofit organizations notes that seven have already closed or become inactive.

Their full report states that 55 out of 77 responding to their survey said that they brought in no more than $500,000 in 2011. Many launch with relatively large start-up grants but struggle to find on-going funding to further their mission. Therein lies the fragile nature of these news outlets. Other sources of revenue are pretty small — individual donations at the top followed by advertising/sponsorship and events. Yet it is these types of funding that can serve to support the organization over the long-term versus the hit and miss timing of a large grant or donation.

reportersThey are further challenged by spending most of their time and resources on journalism and limited time on fundraising and business operations such as advertising sales. This is often endemic for nonprofits of all stripes.They feel that they need to demonstrate to current and potential supporters that a very high percentage of every dollar donated goes toward fulfilling the mission rather than into “overhead.” However, business and fundraising operations are not “overhead” but essential to maintaining the organization’s mid- and long-term viability as an on-going operation.

One quote in particular from the report stood out:

When one small nonprofit news organization discussed its ongoing struggle to raise money, the message was simple. “We don’t have time to do this,” it reported. “And we don’t know how.”

So if the typical nonprofit news organization is not allocating its resources to business operations or fundraising, what’s happening with reporting?

Staffing and Stories

The Pew study of nonprofit websites over a two-week period found that close to half (44%) produced 10 or fewer pieces of original content. Roughly one-third published at least 11 straight news stories of 500 words or less, while two-thirds produced no long-form stories of 1,000 words or more.The study further found that 77% produced no opinion or commentary during this two-week assessment.

To provide some perspective, on the staffing side of things they noted that traditional newspapers had an average of 29 full-time journalists in 2011, down from 39 in 2001. Of the 93 nonprofit organizations who responded to the Pew survey, three-fourths had no more than five paid full-time staffers across all aspects of the business — both reporters and business. Right at half of the nonprofits had between one and five paid, part-time employees. Yet nearly three-fourths also used unpaid volunteers, interns or contributors, and some had only unpaid volunteer staff.

Nonprofit News Examples

So what do these nonprofit news outlets look like? Here’s a quick listing and, as noted above, you can find the full list compiled for the Pew study online.

  • VTDigger.com has three full-time reporters in Vermont.
  • TexasTribune has the largest statehouse bureau of any news organization in the country: 15 full-time year-round reporters and 10 students.
  • Center for Investigative Reporting — started in 1977. Reported over $7 million revenue for 2013, $11 million in 2012.
  • Texas Observer — covering the statehouse in Austin for 60 years (1954). The Texas Observer has three full-time reporters and three students.
  • The Connecticut Mirror has four full-time reporters.

Growing Need for Nonprofit News Outlets

There’s clearly a need for these nontraditional media outlets, as indicated by their growth and their efforts to fill the gap left by the decline in traditional newspaper coverage in the statehouse and many other areas. There is also a growing level of support for them either through grants or philanthropic efforts. Yet it’s clear that more focus needs to be paid to the business side of their operations along with serious year-round fundraising through donations, subscriptions, or advertising sales — perhaps even all three.

 

Stay tuned for our next post, which will take a deeper dive into a few of these organizations to learn more about how they operate and the impact of their efforts. In the meantime, you can subscribe to our email newsletter at the top right hand corner of this page to keep up-to-date on all our efforts.

Leading the charge for nontraditional journalism

By
Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

watchdogorg-ipadAmericans are rapidly embracing the digital space as an outlet for legitimate news. According to a recent Pew Report, a whopping 87 percent of respondents said that the Internet and cell phones “have improved their ability to learn new things, including 53 percent who say it has improved this ‘a lot,’” and three-fourths said they are “better informed” about national news as a result.

At the Franklin Center, which has always operated as an online-only platform, these findings are hardly surprising. On the contrary, we have embraced them from day one. Over the past year, we’ve invested in the preeminence of the digital space by training and supporting a new type of “nontraditional” journalist that excels in the chaotic world of the internet.

For example, this year we launched our inaugural Journalism Internship Program – a full-time, paid internship program for college students and young professionals pursuing a career in investigative journalism.

“Too often internship programs focus on prestige of the institution, rather than the actual intern experience,” said Rachel Swaffer, Outreach Manager at the Franklin Center. “We want to turn that idea on its head – placing our interns in media organizations where we can ensure that they will have an intense, hands-on experience, and be intimately involved in the research, writing, and editing process.”

In just a few months, program interns have make a difference in the communities where they’ve worked. For instance, Raleigh News and Observer intern Clare Myers took the watchdog philosophy to heart by launching an independent search of government documents. Her findings led her to a story that exposed how a state government agency failed to recover nearly $300,000 in wasted tax dollars.

Over the past year the Franklin Center has also rapidly expanded our network of bloggers. In May, we hosted the Future of Media Summit. For two days, bloggers, journalists, and activists all gathered at the National Press Club to participate in top-notch media panels. They learned about the importance of producing original content and gained new tips for finding and breaking the big stories that challenge the mainstream narrative. The message from the event was clear: the news need not be the domain of professional reporters.

For example, as we celebrated at the Breitbart Awards, nontraditional journalists like California political blogger Jon Fleischman, who runs the Golden State’s go-to political news site, or Mark Newgent, an engaged citizen in Maryland who writes for the premier blog of conservative politics in the Free State, have made waves this year in their states and communities through digital channels.

Detroit is a phoenix croppedAs one example of nontraditional journalists countering the wisdom of media elites, the Franklin Center spearheaded a conference focused on owning the narrative of Detroit. It’s no secret that Detroit has the potential to be the definitive example of the disastrous consequences of radical progressive policy. So when the progressive Netroots Nation held their annual conference in downtown Motor City last July, we decided to stage a conversation of our own.

Citizen journalists, policy experts, and local businesses gathered together for several days to highlight the past policies that failed Detroit, and to look ahead to the city’s increasingly bright future of private entrepreneurship. It gave bloggers and analysts a chance to immerse themselves in the culture and economy of Detroit so that they could tell the story of Detroit’s decline – and potential to rise again – through their own writing and debates. Looking back, there is no question it helped a new group of journalists put a face on Detroit’s recovery process.

We’ve also created a unique blogger fellowship program to support top non-traditional journalists connecting with grassroots readers. Inaugural blogger fellows Amelia Hamilton and Ben Howe have taken their work to the next level. Howe covered Detroit’s bankruptcy and reported on the policies and politics that are contributing to its fiscal crisis.

“Being a blogger fellow with the Franklin Center means that I get to tell stories that really matter – stories of everyday Americans,” said Hamilton. “Whether these are stories of school choice, success in the energy industry, or other stories, they show that what happens in government has a very real effect on lives across the country.”

“Ben and Amelia have done an incredible job and have shown great initiative and interest in their work,” said Lauren Bouton, Online Outreach Manager at Franklin. “I think that the benefit of having bloggers write about topics is that they have a different angle than many traditional journalists. They are able to report about issues that are very important to them in their communities… and I think that the personal level on which they communicate makes a huge difference.”

Director of Policy & Outreach

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

Position Description

The Director of Policy & Outreach will work closely across departments in the organization, overseeing a team that coordinates outreach and relationship marketing, conducts policy research and product development, and serves as a resource supporting key projects and initiatives. The ideal candidate will have strong interpersonal skills, a demonstrated general understanding of policy matters, and ability to manage people and projects.

The Director of Policy & Outreach will be based in Franklin’s Alexandria, Virginia office, and report to the Senior Vice President.

Roles & Responsibilities:

  • Outreach & Relationship Marketing: Oversee day to day functions related to outreach, with a primary goal of driving effective relationship marketing that engages our strategic allies toward increasing our profile and distribution network. This includes aligned non-profit groups, networked bloggers and citizen journalists, and key influencers in the media realm.
  • Oversee Policy Research & Development: Work with experts from think tanks and other organizations to conduct policy research, play a day-to-day supporting role to our opinion writing efforts, and serve as a resource to our staff throughout the organization.
  • Policy Education: Arrange monthly policy orientations on such subjects as education, energy, regulation, the environment and health.
  • Project Management: Serve as a liaison between development and journalism to ensure fulfillment of donor intent and execution in a timely manner.
  • White Papers: Assist in production of in longer-form policy white papers that take an in-depth look at critical policy issues.
  • Coordinate Promotion of Policy Oriented Work: The Director will work with our marketing, media relations, and other departments to ensure promotion metrics are achieved.

Requirements:

  • 4-6+ years of experience in policy, outreach, external relations, public affairs, or related field preferred
  • High social IQ; ability to quickly build meaningful relationships with a variety of people/personalities
  • Strong people management skills; passion for cultivating, empowering, and professionally developing lower level staff
  • Successful track record of problem solving; confronting issues head-on and addressing them
  • Self-motivated; outcome-oriented
  • Ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously, turn ideas into action, and drive projects to completion
  • Big picture mentality; ability to see how all the moving parts of an operation fit together
  • Superior organization and focus on detail
  • Solid administrative skill set
  • Strong written & verbal communication skills
  • Budgeting experience
  • Understanding of the importance of outreach/building partnerships and how these relationships are tied to the success of an organization such as ours
  • Knowledge of the free-market nonprofit movement a plus

To Apply

Qualified candidates should submit the following in one PDF file:

  • Résumé
  • Cover letter detailing your sincere interest in this position/mission of the organization and your salary requirements

Materials should be emailed to Claire Dixon, executive director of Talent Market, who is assisting with the search:  claire@talentmarket.org.  All materials should be sent in one PDF file with your name in the file name.

While we thank all applicants in advance for their interest in this position, we are only able to contact those to whom we can offer an interview.  No phone calls, please.

About the Franklin Center

Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity strives to promote the education of the public about waste, corruption, incompetence, fraud and taxpayer abuse by public officials at all levels of government. With transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility as its watchwords, the Franklin Center identifies, trains, and supports investigative journalists working to detect and expose corruption and incompetence in government at the state and local levels. For more information on the Franklin Center please visit www.FranklinCenterHQ.org or our news site, watchdog.org.

Daniel Francisco, Director of Marketing

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014

Daniel joined the Franklin Center coming from a heavy focus in account management within the private sector. After getting his feet wet in the movement by directing a journalism non-profit, he now manages the marketing platforms within the organization.

A native of New Jersey, Daniel graduated from Rutgers University.

How Wisconsin Reporter became a game-changer

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

By M.D. Kittle

The left likes to call it “an October surprise,” a nefarious attempt by the “right-wing” news media to sink the Democrat’s candidate for governor in the closing days of Wisconsin’s heated campaign.

SPOILER ALERT: It wasn’t.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Wisconsin Reporter’s investigative report on Mary Burke’s troubled professional resume is that we were the first media outlet to report on what has been described as a “game-changer” story in the 2014 gubernatorial race.

True, we broke the story on Burke, the Madison liberal who spent the past year selling her executive experience at her family-owned company as admittance to the governor’s mansion, on Oct. 28 – exactly one week before the general election. Burke, at the time, was in a dead-heat race with incumbent Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

Oct. 28 was, by the way, the same day that a good source tipped off Wisconsin Reporter that an insider had information that Burke was fired from Wisconsin-based Trek Bicycle Corp. in the early 1990s by her brother due to “non-performance.”

As I have told people since the story hit our Watchdog.org national website, if the tip had come in six months before, Wisconsin Reporter would have published it six months before.

What was most amazing to me, as I found out while talking to high-placed executives at Trek, is that Mary Burke’s checkered resume was perhaps the worst-kept secret in parts of Wisconsin and there is strong evidence to suggest that reporters at some of the state’s largest dailies had been notified of the discrepancies long before.

At first, it seemed like one of those too-strange-to-be true stories. After spending a couple of hours tracking down phone numbers of former Trek executives and getting nowhere, I started to think maybe there wasn’t anything here. Some wouldn’t talk, others couldn’t remember much from 20 years ago, many couldn’t be reached for comment.

Photo courtesy of Royal Broil

Former Wisconsin gubernatorial candidate Mary Burke.

And then Trek’s former human resources director called me back.

He said Burke, who had long struggled to explain her two-year work hiatus in the early to mid-1990s after mysteriously leaving the company her father started, was fired by her own family following overseas financial losses and plummeting morale among Burke’s European sales staff. The HR director said the sales team threated to quit if Burke was not removed from her position as director of European Operations, and that Burke was made to come back to headquarters and personally apologize to the employees about her poor performance.

The source was good. They don’t get much better than a human resources director with a company for more than a dozen years. But he had some baggage. He was active in local GOP politics and had made some incendiary comments on his Facebook page.

The source was eventually crucified in the press by a mainstream media that was livid about being beaten on this “bombshell” story. Instead of looking into the allegations, they attacked the messenger. For a time, anyway.

We had four other former executives or managers who corroborated the HR director’s accounts, asserting that, under Burke’s leadership, Trek’s operations in key markets such as Germany bled money. These were very good sources, one in particular extremely high placed. The trouble was, none of them wanted to go on the record. They feared retribution from the company, and some had retirements at stake.

The mainstream players suddenly found one top executive, Trek’s former president during the time in question, who went on the record and corroborated Wisconsin Reporter’s story. Every detail. The mainstreamers reported the executive’s account with clinched fists and teeth. Even then, their headlines were, “Ex-Trek execs with conservative ties say Mary Burke was forced out.”

Because, they implied, conservatives cannot be trusted to act without political motivation.

Many of the same news outlets wrote scathing commentaries about that terrible, no-good Wisconsin Reporter, “a pseudo-journalistic publication bankrolled by conservative foundations,” as the Milwaukee Journal editorial board put it. Wisconsin’s largest newspaper said this, “The story was published by the conservative mouthpiece less than a week before the election — a classic political trick, an October surprise of innuendo and half-truths. It was intended by Walker partisans, if not the conservative mouthpiece itself, to confuse voters.”

Apparently confusing the voters is shorthand for telling the truth, giving Wisconsin’s electorate the critical information they needed that the mainstream media either was too lazy or, more egregious, too partisan to report on.

Feeling the heat, Burke and her campaign quickly called the story “ridiculous,” filled with “baseless allegations,” right after the candidate acknowledged for the first time that her position at Trek was “eliminated” after a company “reorganization.” As one political observer colorfully put it, successful companies don’t typically downsize their most successful employees, and Trek certainly has built a reputation as a successful company over the years.

While we were excoriated in the mainstream for our “October Surprise,” Wisconsin Reporter heard from many Wisconsin voters – conservatives, independents, even some liberals – who said they were glad that there are still organizations committed to investigative reporting, doing the important work that mainstream publications have all but abdicated.

Senior Writer

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

About the Franklin Center

Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity strives to promote the education of the public about waste, corruption, incompetence, fraud and taxpayer abuse by public officials at all levels of government. With transparency, accountability and fiscal responsibility as its watchwords, the Franklin Center identifies, trains, and supports investigative journalists working to detect and expose corruption and incompetence in government at the state and local levels. For more information on the Franklin Center please visit www.FranklinCenterHQ.org or our news site, Watchdog.org.

Position Description

The Franklin Center is seeking a highly motivated writer to join the Communications Team. Applicants should have experience writing in the op-ed format and feel comfortable writing argumentatively on a variety of policy matters, including energy, education, technology, healthcare, and civil liberties. He or she should have superior organization and focus on detail, the ability to manage multiple projects at once, and the desire to take ownership of projects and see them through to the finish.

The ideal candidate will be able to quickly dissect and understand policy, craft a unique, nuanced perspective consistent with the free-market ideology, and write columns of 500-700 words that are compelling and well-reasoned. Strong editing skills and the ability to perform on deadline are a must. Past political writing experience is required; 2-3 years of writing experience is preferred.

Responsibilities and Tasks Include:

  • Monitor the news and propose op-ed ideas to the Director of Public Affairs
  • Conduct research and write columns on deadline
  • Manage long-term strategic issue advocacy projects
  • Coordinate with senior executives on op-ed projects
  • Assist in writing press releases and other public communications
  • Prepare executives for media appearances by writing issue briefings
  • Edit columns for content, style, and accuracy

To apply, please send a resume to Michael.Moroney@franklincenterhq.org

Covering tech policy: From D.C. to your Wi-Fi router

By
Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

Josh Peterson cover image

Josh Peterson cut his teeth on technology the good old fashioned way – through hands-on experience building websites and doing social media for small businesses and music groups he played in. When he moved to Washington, D.C. to pursue journalism, he made it clear to many of his first contacts that he wanted to pursue tech and national security issues, and he subsequently began building policy expertise and a contact list of sources.

That path took him through writing tenures at Broadband Breakfast, the Heritage Foundation, the Daily Caller, and – as of the beginning of this year – Watchdog.org, where he is part of Watchdog.org’s early forays into specialized beat reporting.

The technology beat he covers while based in Washington, D.C. hardly seems the natural domain of someone who majored in religion and philosophy in college and plays local music gigs on the side, but Peterson says this background helps him see the forces of human nature at play amid all the technical jargon.

“Studying religion and philosophy taught me to critically examine the ideologies that motivate people, organizations, and businesses,” he said. “When I report on tech issues, I look for the political drama of ideological and business conflicts.”

Indeed, if there’s one thing Peterson consistently stresses in his reporting, it’s depth. One of his favorite things about reporting for Watchdog.org is that its focus on state and local governments gives him the ability to explore the deeper implications of federal level regulatory and legislative battles. This allows his reporting to go beyond the surface level he-said/she-said coverage that so many journalists are forced to resort to these days.

“Tech policy is highly political and ideological,” he said, “but it is driven by the competitive and innovative needs and goals of the companies involved in the tech and telecom sectors.”

The result is a fascinating mishmash of companies focused on meeting growing business and consumer demands and politicians and bureaucrats working to accomplish their political goals while serving their constituents. Often the two clash bitterly.

“That being said,” Peterson (pictured right) noted, “the parties involved do find ways to work together and find common ground between them.”

Photo courtesy of Josh PetersonIn a busy and complex world, the value of this kind of in-depth reporting that makes the issues digestible to everyday Americans is huge.

“Most consumers don’t care about the nuts and bolts of tech policy, and understandably so, because they’re busy with their own lives,” Peterson said. “What they do want is to get what they paid for regarding their devices and services.”

On one hand, the proliferation of social media and advancements in communications technology enable American consumers to more easily and effectively voice their concerns to their elected officials, but the PR campaigns that various organizations and companies run through the media often harness this same power and use it to distort the conversation with misinformation or a lopsided set of facts. This makes it harder for taxpayers to make sure that they get what they want from the companies they like and their government officials.

Like many issues, technological advances are a mixed bag in terms of how they improve the quality of government. The internet and Big Data, for example, have at times created opportunities for government waste and abuse.

“One of the original complaints of the pre-Snowden NSA whistleblowers was that the agency favored a bloated and expensive system for finding terrorists over a more efficient cost-effective system,” Peterson said. “Another example is the Healthcare.gov debacle – not only did a politically favored company build the system, but bureaucrats complicated the implementation process, enabling security problems to fester.”

On the flipside, however, Peterson noted that websites like data.gov and usaspending.gov give taxpayers more insight into the activities of their government, which in turn create opportunities for greater accountability, reform, and transparency.

When asked what is the most important story he has covered since coming on board at Watchdog.org, Peterson has a quick answer: the threat of EMP (electromagnetic pulse) attacks.

“Reporting on electric grid vulnerabilities and EMP attacks is critically important, because electricity is the backbone of the modern world and a severe attack would have catastrophic implications for our society,” he said, referring to a danger that sounds almost apocalyptic in scope but is in fact all too real.

From a tech industry standpoint, however, Peterson said the big story that has dominated the conversation this year is the continuing debate around net neutrality.

“The outcome of the net neutrality debate will have huge implications for the future of the tech industry from both a development and governance standpoint,” he said.

Interestingly, Peterson has found that the imminence of the Federal Communications Commission adopting net neutrality rules is simultaneously one of the most over-hyped and under-reported tech issues today. At stake are concerns that broadband providers will abuse their power to provide quality high-speed internet, as well as the opposite fear that the FCC will impose excessive regulations that rein in companies to such an extent that they stifle innovation and growth.

“Major coverage of the issue has generally been very one-sided,” Peterson said, “giving Americans only a part of the story of what amounts to a very nuanced conflict between incredibly innovative companies.”

Although the terms and details of the debate can be difficult to decipher at first, it is important for Americans to stay informed about tech issues and the government’s response to them simply because technology pervades nearly every bit of modern life. As such, governments in America and around the world are expressing increasing interest in technology’s implications for their citizens.

“The Founders believed that a well-informed citizenry was important to the success of the American experiment of self-government under the rule of law,” Peterson said, “and making the time to understand tech issues is important for the future of self-governance.”

Recognizing the future of journalism

By
Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

The Franklin Center is committed not just to providing the hard-hitting investigative journalism of today, but investing in the watchdogs of tomorrow. This year we’ve taken a huge step toward fulfilling that mission by hosting our inaugural Journalism Internship Program, a full-time, paid internship program for college students and young professionals pursuing a career in investigative journalism. 

The program is designed to help raise up a generation of journalists who are committed to holding government accountable on every side, at every level. Though unassuming on the surface, program interns have had opportunities to make a difference in the communities where they’ve worked. It’s clear that they have taken the spirit of investigative journalism to heart – they aren’t just reporting the news, they’re making it.

Meet the Franklin Center’s Inaugural Class of Journalism Interns

Written by Elizabeth Green, Development Intern


Elena Novak

elena novak“I’m a firm believer in journalistic integrity and freedom of the press; as journalists, we have a responsibility to report the facts as we see them, even if they are difficult to digest.  I learned the importance of this while writing for Florida State’s newspaper: the FSView. Through my year with them I developed a love for journalism; I love the research and discovery, I love going out and asking hard questions and developing relationships, I love the energy that goes into writing and synthesis. I agree with the Franklin Center’s mission to foster conversation surrounding transparency and accountability.”

Elena graduated from Florida State University in May with a degree in creative writing and is excited to begin her career in journalism at the Raleigh News & Observer in North Carolina. Investigative journalism appealed to her after interning with the Village Square, a nonprofit that encourages civil discourse. She loves how journalism requires the reporter to mentally inhabit both sides of an issue, understanding the opposition and wrestling with the contradictions. Elena appreciates the Franklin Center’s pursuit of journalistic integrity. This summer, she’s enjoyed getting involved in the Raleigh community and learning how the city ticks in order to better report about local issues. In her time off, Elena enjoys taking part in Raleigh’s summer concert scene.

Celina Durgin

celina durgin“I am participating in the Franklin Center internship program in order to hone my journalism skills on-the-job and through relevant studies. The opportunity for a paid internship with a program whose values I share was too good to ignore. The Franklin Center’s goal of government accountability is one of my own goals for the work I do throughout my life.”

Celina studies politics, philosophy, and economics at King’s College in New York City. She’s been interested in reporting since attending journalism camp at the age of fourteen and is excited to develop the new skills involved with writing for National Review this summer. She enjoys the hard fact-finding involved in writing thorough, careful stories. Celina hopes to bring an analytical perspective and an ability to piece together facts to get to the heart of tricky issues. She loves that journalism puts the reporter directly in contact with real issues to affect positive change. On her free days in New York City this summer, she can be found in Central Park reading one of her favorite authors: George Orwell, Aristotle, or C.S. Lewis.

Erin Mundahl

erin mudahl“Since high school, and even before, I have been what is generally considered a “news junkie.” Because of my interest I have spent untold hours reading news and commentary, attempting to understand the greater context of events. It is this sense of context which allows for a deeper understanding of each event taken in isolation.

As a participant in the Franklin Center Journalism Internship Program, I hope to gain writing experience and to pursue avenues wherein I can publish some commentary of my own. I seek a means to integrate reporting and analysis in a fashion which is at once engaging, reasonable and approachable.”

Erin graduated from Hillsdale College with a degree in both English and French. This summer Erin is working at Red Alert Politics, assisting in their mission to translate news content into pithy and amusing pieces, understandable and approachable to citizens. Although she did not plan in college on going into a career in journalism, she’s excited to learn more about the craft. As a lifelong news junkie, she looks forward to being on the other end of the news, learning how to convey politics to diverse audiences. Erin loves reading everything and enjoys producing approachable content on blogs or YouTube. This summer, she’s enjoyed taking part in the cultural experiences that Washington, D.C. has to offer.

Clare Myers

clare myers“I’m participating in the Franklin Center Journalism Internship Program because I want to sharpen my skills as an investigative reporter. I believe journalists play a vital role in society by keeping the public informed, and in this sense, much of what goes on in our nation depends on our journalists. As a journalist, it’s my responsibility to others to be the best I can be.”

Clare has traveled from the University of Dallas, where she is studying history, journalism, and Spanish, to her summer internship at the News & Observer in Raleigh, North Carolina. She is excited to be pursuing fair and impartial journalism with the Franklin Center. Clare enjoyed growing her skills as a writer and learning how to report events in a community rather than on a college campus. She loves that journalism gives the reporter a personal connection to the people she meets, and she could not wait to get to know the people of Raleigh and tell their stories. Because stories bring people together, Clare believes the media is responsible to tell those stories accurately. During her summer in Raleigh, she’s most enjoyed attending her first pig roast.

Josh Evans

josh evans“I’m participating in the Franklin Center’s journalism program in order to further refine my skills as a journalist in a real-world environment. I hope to improve my journalistic abilities, as well as develop new connections and friendships within the industry.”

Josh studies political science at Grove City College, and he grew to love reporting in high school after taking a journalism elective on a whim. He wrote for his student paper in college, and this summer he works for the Daily Caller in Washington, D.C. Josh’s biggest journalism interest is in tech reporting, and he hopes to bring his ability to learn quickly to the ever-changing world of technology. Through his internship, he hopes to develop the ability to work in a less-supervised environment, growing in his ability to pitch stories, especially in a big city and not a small college campus. After a long career of journalism, Josh hopes to become an advisor to a high school newspaper and teach students about investigative journalism. This summer, he’s enjoyed walking on the National Mall and spending time in his favorite bookshop in DuPont Circle.

Shalva Ginsparg

shalva gigsparg“I admire the ideals which Franklin Center embodies of creating a more vibrant democratic society based on accountability and transparency. As a writer who aims to use the written word to effect positive change, I am so grateful for the opportunity to participate in the 2014 Franklin Center Journalism Internship program this summer.”

Shalva is working with Red Alert Politics in Washington, D.C. this summer. She does a lot of reading and writing in order to produce pitched and assigned website content for Red Alert. She will be a senior at Stern College for Women in Manhattan, where she studies English Literature and Judaic Studies. Shalva serves as editor for her school newspaper, and she can’t remember a time in the past year when she hasn’t been working on a story. She hopes to hone her journalism skills and believes that Franklin’s mission to empower citizens and make government transparent should be the mission of every journalist. She’s very interested in the issues she’s reporting on and feels that she can bring a well-informed perspective to journalism. She already sees improvement in her adoption of social media tools into her journalism style. During her summer in D.C., she’s enjoyed exploring the Smithsonian museums and re-reading her favorite author Edith Wharton.

Kaitlan Collins

kaitlan collins“I am participating in the Franklin Center’s internship program because I believe in the legacy the Franklin Center seeks to continue to leave behind—that of empowering voters with clear, objective information. I am grateful to be a vessel in the process that legacy entails.”

Kaitlan, a recent graduate of the University of Alabama, interns at the Daily Caller in Washington, D.C. She started out studying chemistry and transitioned to journalism and political science due to her love of reading and writing. She loves that the journalism internship application for Franklin required discussions on free markets, inspirational books, and other stimulating topics. Kaitlan loves to take potentially dull topics and turn them into appealing stories. She looks forward to producing stories in the real world, as opposed to a college campus, and is excited about improving the quality of her work. Kaitlan hopes to remain in D.C. and do journalism after her internship ends.

Katherine Tobar

katherine tobar“I decided to participate in the Franklin Center Summer Journalism Internship Program because I want to gain experience and knowledge in the field and be prepared to pursue a professional career as a journalist.”

Katherine joins our team of interns from Quito, Ecuador, where she is earning a joint degree in Media & Writing Communication and Multimedia Journalism from Juniata College and Universidad San Francisco de Quito. Through the Franklin Center Internship, she works at Illinois Policy Institute in their journalism division. She loves political journalism and has greatly enjoyed learning more about American politics. Kate appreciates the objectivity emphasized by the Franklin Center journalism model and has enjoyed the online course component of the internship program. She hopes to travel for a while but eventually return to Ecuador, bringing her skills of investigation and persistence to political journalism there. While interning this summer, she has also enjoyed living in Chicago and getting to ride a ferry boat on Lake Michigan.

Franklin Center Statement on Steven Sotloff

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

September 2, 2014
Contact: Michael Moroney 571-385-0774
Michael.moroney@franklincenterhq.org

Photo Credit: Daily Caller

Photo Credit: Daily Caller

Alexandria, VA — Today, Jason Stverak, president of the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity released the following statement on Steven Sotloff:

“Today, we’re reminded anew that those who work tirelessly to bring us the news from devastated war-zones are true heroes. A year after Steven Sotloff was kidnapped by the militant group Islamic State while reporting in Syria, he was executed for his commitment to the truth in a land that so desperately needs it.

“It takes unspeakable courage to come face to face with evil with little more than a notepad in hand, undeterred and resolved to tell the story any cost. Steven put his life on the line so that the world could see the horrors of oppression and the suffering of the voiceless, and we honor his sacrifice.”

The Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity is a leader in non-profit journalism. It was founded in 2009 to address falling standards in the media as well as a steep falloff in reporting on state government and provides professional training and assistance with a mission of exposing waste, fraud, and abuse in government.

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Why Good Talent Is Hard to Find

By
Monday, August 25th, 2014

reporter reading book library

With all the bad press surrounding print news nowadays — declining readership and ad revenues, cutbacks in staff — you would think that journalists-for-hire were as common as words on a page.

Certainly, plenty of talented reporters and editors are out looking for work. Tens of thousands of people at legacy newspapers and magazines, 51,200 to be exact, lost their jobs in the lean years from 2007 to 2012, according to a recent report by the Pew Center. Many are scouting for work in the new online press that is coming to dominate news readership today. And some have succeeded, in grand style. Dozens of the biggest names in print journalism made the leap to online publications and start-ups in 2013, as we detailed in a recent blog Watchdogs Step Up as Traditional Journalists Step Down in Capitols.

But what those top journalists largely had in common, besides working for standard-bearers like The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, were specialized skills on beats ranging from finance and politics to technology and social media. One well-known example even outside of the journalism world is the longtime financial reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin, who famously authored the book, “Too Big To Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System—and Themselves.” He was able to write such a thorough recap of the financial crisis because of his deep understanding of the key players, content, and context.

Expertise was the key to success here, and it represents a major difference in how the old print media and the new online media approach the news.

Today’s Journalists Need to Be Specialists in Their Field

Print news aimed for the widest possible coverage (“All the News Fit to Print” was The New York Times’s slogan) to attract and hold the largest number of subscribers. It favored professionals with broad-based, generalized knowledge who could report on any issue or topic. Most training, even in specialty fields, came through hands-on work.

Online media, in contrast, is overwhelming specialized in its coverage, which makes sense both economically and practically. Its niche reporting targets readers already interested and knowledgeable about particular topics and issues, who search among sites for articles and visuals that delve deeper into explaining and exploring them. That’s true regardless of topic: health care, personal finances, real estate, energy, law, politics, religion, sports, music, film, and the fine arts. Name a topic, and chances are, you’ll find a website devoted to its latest happenings.

So to succeed, online media needs reporters with a deep understanding of these issues and topics. It needs journalists whose in-depth mastery of specific beats gives them the ability to interpret reports that are often highly technical and data-driven, and turn them into stories that are full of information and insight, and are enjoyable to read.

In other words, it needs a lot of Andrew Sorkin-style journalists.

reporter hands typing books

Some Examples of Online Niche Media

While a few online media like the Huffington Post are rather broad-based, most aim for coverage of one distinct niche and its offshoots:

The list goes on and on, making for heady competition.

Legacy Journalism Is Adapting, But Slowly

Journalists and journalism schools are starting to catch on. J-school programs, like those at Wake Forest and DePaul, now offer courses on niche reporting and emphasize specialty fields. Columbia University encourages journalism students to earn dual degrees, or double majors.

The University of Toronto goes one step further, and might have the best approach of all. It actively recruits doctors, lawyers, engineers and business people for its journalism program.

For now, though, shortages will be the norm. The online press will continue to snap up journalists with the expertise and depth to challenge knowledgeable readers — but it won’t be easy. There may be a lot of good old-style journalists looking for work, but there’s too few with the skills that fit the demands of today’s online and specialty journalism.

This is why Franklin Center continues to seek top talent with experience and interests in niche areas such as education, pensions, and more. Do you believe in this method of reporting? Click here to donate or here to apply today.