Though we are usually busy telling readers in Mass about all the journalism and media ecosystem building we do in our home state, we wanted to briefly acknowledge yet another function we have been serving for the past few years.
Compared to journalism incubators that have been up and running for more than a decade, like the mighty ProPublica for example, BINJ is still a young organization. At the same time, we have been operating for more than four years now, and have proactively helped many who have come after us looking for answers to the journalism crisis.
Thanks to grant support from the Chicago-based Reva and David Logan Foundation, in 2018 we amassed a stockpile of information and lessons about projects and approaches we pursued as a burgeoning media nonprofit. The resulting BINJ-in-a-Box is a perpetually updated portal designed to document our progress for others to follow and refit for the demographics they’re serving. It’s all in there—from our pitch decks, to suggestions about how to form a team, to a list of journalism grants. (If there’s something you want us to add, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Last week, some of us flew out to Colorado for this year’s convening of the Association of Alternative Media (AAN), a trade association of more than 100 publications in the US and Canada including DigBoston in Mass. We have been speaking to editors, reporters, and publishers at AAN conferences since 2016, giving tips and free consulting to those who want to start journalism nonprofits and pursue ambitious collaborative projects in their own cities.
We are happy to say that nonprofits have since popped up in Santa Fe (New Mexico Fund for Public Interest Journalism), Baltimore (BINJ Baltimore), Little Rock (Arkansas Nonprofit News Network), and Salt Lake City (Press Backers), with efforts also underway in Pittsburgh among other places. We hope to soon apply for joint grant funding with some of our friends at these startups, but for now we are all on our own, trading ideas and applying strategies in our respective markets. As historian David Armstrong wrote in his 1981 history of alternative American media, A Trumpet to Arms:
When one underground enterprise succeeded, all the others were strengthened. . . . This did not only benefit activists. The public benefited, too, from the much greater availability of new visions and values, which broadened the political, cultural, and spiritual options of millions. . . . Without [the alternative press], the counterculture and the New Left would not have taken root and flourished.