Temple University axes nonprofit news site AxisPhilly, shifts focus to other ventures

The Center for Public Interest Journalism at Temple University shuttered nonprofit news website AxisPhilly June 13 after two years of reporting that earned national recognition but failed to meet the school’s expectations for local impact. Yet CPIJ, which is operated by Temple’s School of Media and Communications, is embarking on another digital news venture. It is helping to launch Brother.ly, a Philadelphia-focused news startup headed by Jim Brady, former editor-in-chief of Digital First Media. CPIJ launched AxisPhilly in 2012 with a two-year, $2.4 million grant from the William Penn Foundation. The site’s first director, Neil Budde, left after the first year as CPIJ looked to restructure the site to make it self-sustaining.

Omidyar and Greenwald’s new journalism venture will be incorporated nonprofit

First Look Media, a new journalism organization backed by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and headed by former Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald, will include a 501(c)3 nonprofit as part of its structure. The company, announced in June with $250 million in promised capital from Omidyar, will comprise several entities, including a for-profit division dedicated to exploring new media technologies. According to a Dec. 19 announcement, the still-unnamed nonprofit-journalism side of the company will create a digital publication. Funds from the technology wing will support the journalism, which will retain editorial independence.

St. Louis pubmedia merger moves ahead

St. Louis Public Radio and the St. Louis Beacon, a nonprofit news site, have negotiated a merger agreement that will be taken up by the University of Missouri System’s Board of Curators at its next meeting in November.

InsideClimate News wins Pulitzer for coverage of 2010 oil spill

The nonprofit InsideClimate News won this year’s National Reporting Pulitzer Prize for its investigative series The Dilbit Disaster: Inside the Biggest Oil Spill You’ve Never Heard Of. Reporters Elizabeth McGowan, Lisa Song and David Hasemyer took on a seven-month investigation about a 2010 oil spill in Michigan’s Kalamazoo River. The winning package consisted of a three-part narrative and follow-up articles delving deeper into the circumstances of the oil spill. “It was an important story, and we told it well through the eyes of the people who experienced it and who are investigating it,” said David Sassoon, founder and publisher of ICN. Sassoon started ICN six years ago as a blog with just two people.

Report: IRS needs to change “antiquated” approach to nonprofit news startups

Taking too long to confer 501(c)3 status to startup nonprofit news organizations not only undervalues journalism but also has stymied new approaches to community journalism when they are needed most, according to a report released today by the Nonprofit Working Group of the Council on Foundations. The group was created by the Council on Foundations with a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to study the impact of the IRS’s recent approach to granting nonprofit status to media organizations. The report cites the IRS’s “antiquated” methods of granting tax-exempt status as hobbling efforts to create new media outlets. “Over the last several decades, accountability reporting, especially at the local level, has contracted dramatically, with potentially grave consequences for communities, government accountability, and democracy,” said Steven Waldman, chair of the Nonprofit Media Working Group, in a prepared statement. “Nonprofit media provides an innovative solution to help fill this vacuum, but only if the IRS modernizes its approach.”

The group pointed out five problems with how the IRS currently handles tax-exempt requests, including taking too long, undervaluing journalism and failing to “recognize the changing nature of digital media.”

The group recommended that the IRS address the problems by counting news and journalism as “educational” under tax-exempt rules.