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Non-Ideological (Or Not?)

A new study from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism has received quite a bit of attention since its publication yesterday. Titled “Assessing A New Landscape in Journalism,” the study delves into a new news phenomenon:

As traditional newsrooms have shrunk, a group of institutions and funders motivated by something other than profit are entering the journalism arena. This distinguishes them from the commercial news institutions that dominated the 20th century, whose primary sources of revenue — advertising and circulation — were self-evident. [...]

The 46 national and state-level news sites examined — a group that included seven new commercial sites with similar mission — offered a wide range of styles and approaches, but roughly half, the study found, produced news coverage that was clearly ideological in nature.

The introduction alone makes an intriguing point. While not-for-profit motivations have long figured into the human services or cultural spheres (for example), those motivations are newer elements in the journalistic sphere. Why are they now emerging and does this signify that news organizations are increasing in power and relevance, rather than, as some argue, decreasing? And have these organizations have emerged because, quite simply, journalist no longer require paper?

And at the Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard University, some compelling (related) questions arise about the ideological bent of 44% these organizations:

First, few of even the most ambitious nonprofit outlets consider themselves true replacements for newspapers. The scale just isn’t there; as Pew’s study notes, the median editorial-staff size at the nonprofits they studied was three. [...] Second, a little ideology isn’t such a bad thing. [...] Viewed as replacements, fall short of what we’d expect from a good newspaper. But as supplements, I’m happy that both exist — that in a state with both a Watchdog site and an Independent site, both sides of the aisle will be poked and prodded, and that stories will surface that otherwise wouldn’t.

So, are you troubled or intrigued by the study’s findings? Is it problematic that nearly half of these non-profits news organizations are not non-partisan? Or do we in fact need the extremes in order to meet in the middle?

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