News organizations generally aren’t nonprofits. Their owners have ranged from somewhat benevolent people with a genuine interest in journalism to your basic everyday robber barons. So, under ordinary circumstances, none of us would suggest adding a news organization to your list if you, like me, do most of your charitable giving in December.
These are not ordinary circumstances. These days, it’s no exaggeration to say facts are under attack from politicians and from nihilistic groups like Project Veritas. That assault is coming when journalism is reeling from the loss of its primary business models. USA TODAY made a lot of its money distributing news to hotel doorsteps, a service that’s not quite as necessary when we can all call up any news site we want on our phones. Local newspapers weathered recessions with classified advertising that has drifted to free platforms. (Or, in the case of the weird personals that used to subsidize alt-weeklies, Tindr or Grindr or Bumpr or whatever the latest app is.)
Times are just getting rougher for journalists. I have two primary freelance clients, and they both slashed their budgets this year.
But I’m not going to ask for money for myself. I thought about setting up a Patreon page or something to support my work as a U.S. Soccer watchdog, but I can’t do it in good conscience. There are too many better ways to spend your money. I may offer some products soon, and feel free to buy as many of those as you wish. Buy early, buy often.
We have larger issues at stake …
Last year, after the election, it became an act of resistance to subscribe to the New York Times or the Washington Post. If you did that, please don’t forget to renew. (And yes, subscribing to the Wall Street Journal is fine, too — most of that money doesn’t go to their lunatic-fringe editorial page.)
I’d also suggest a couple of organizations worth supporting:
- ProPublica is doing the most difficult task in journalism — investigative reporting. It’s time-consuming. People often throw up roadblocks to stop this work from being done. And their business model is based on public support.
- The Guardian is trying some interesting partnerships, and instead of having the obnoxious auto-play videos that pop up (looking your way, Sports Illustrated — and I’m a subscriber), they have a polite banner asking if you’d like to support them. Please do. Yes, I write for The Guardian, but it’s safe to say that if you donate $20, that adds less than 1 cent to my bank account. I would be telling you to donate even if they completely shut down their U.S. operations and quit taking my pitches entirely.
And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my great student paper, which has brought me back to serve on the board and help some amazing student journalists — all much brighter than I was back in my day. Student papers don’t make the money they used to make, for all the same reasons your local newspaper no longer has a profit margin that other business with envy. So consider donating to The Chronicle.
Asking for money doesn’t come easily to journalists. I’m not sure I could ever work for a nonprofit for that reason — it’s simply a skill I don’t have. But I feel strongly about this.
So please give it some thought. Maybe we can keep vital, informative and occasionally entertaining journalism afloat a while longer. Or at least get rid of some pop-up videos.