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Nonprofit newsrooms put focus on mission, impact

By October 23, 2021May 4th, 2022#MVJ2021, Resources

by Genaro J. Prieto

The Nonprofit News Panel on Day 2 of the Military Veterans in Journalism convention presented a discussion on why nonprofit news matters for communities and the nation as a whole. 

Sarah Shahriari, the Director of Leadership and Talent Development at Institute for Nonprofit News, opened the discussion by describing innovation and community engagement tools employed by the 350 non-profit and non-partisan news organizations INN supports. 

“INN members are really working to convey the truth, to build community ties, and to inform people in their communities so they can make decisions about their own lives and about their civic life,” Shahriari said. 

Xanthe Scharff, the CEO and Cofounder of The Fuller Project – a global newsroom centered on women, said the mission-focused nature of nonprofit news sets it apart in the types of journalists it attracts and the way outcomes are measured. 

“When I got into non-profit space I already had a bias for this sort of work…this mission work,” said Sherman Gillums, who sits on the board of the veteran-focused non-profit newsroom, “The War Horse.” Gillums said he was driven by the work of “Speaking truth to power…and making the public a part of it.”

The panel unanimously echoed the importance of truth and accountability, and the need to give a voice to those who typically are overlooked. Nonprofit news is especially valuable for its ability to impact issues through telling the story and capturing the moment.

The War Horse Managing Editor Kelly Kennedy said her reporting and leadership has been intended to bring light to the needs and perspectives of soldiers on the ground. “When things were going down in Kabul we thought about how it felt for the veterans to be processing it right now, and we ran a series of reflections every day that week from people just talking about how it felt. And it was a way to process the story and to deal with the trauma of it.” 

Sherman said, “We are going to keep doing this.  We are going to keep pressing truth as a friend to the public.”

Kelly offered insights for attendees about building their portfolio of clips, taking initiative, and suggested veterans can use the Warhorse reflections series as a starting point. She said, “You can’t wait for someone to make you an investigative reporter. You can’t do that. You have to become the investigative reporter.”

One audience member asked “would you say it is easier to enter nonprofit journalism as opposed to traditional journalism?” 

Regardless of a journalist’s military experience, whether reporting in combat or down the street, the nonprofit sector of journalism has its unique qualities. But ultimately the passion for telling the story truthfully and accurately is essential, and the work gives reporters the power to influence positive change and give voice to groups without wide representation.

The highest value of nonprofit news seems to be it’s power to tell the stories of those that might otherwise be forgotten.