Two-month Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism fundraiser to be amplified by the Institute for Nonprofit News and the Miami Foundation
My message is simple this time out: Please give generously to the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism in November or December at givetobinj.org—and be aware that every individual donation of $1,000 or less (including the annual total of recurring monthly donations that begin in that period) will be matched dollar for dollar up to $10,000 total. If you already know BINJ and like our work, that’s all you need to read.
But if you don’t know BINJ—and aren’t aware, for example, that this column and many articles you read in publications around Massachusetts are actually paid for and syndicated for free to community news outlets by BINJ—then please take a few minutes to learn more about who we are and what we do. And if you like what you learn, then go to givetobinj.org and help us out.
The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism was founded six and a half years ago by my colleagues Chris Faraone and John Loftus and me. Our initial mandate was to help struggling community news outlets across the Commonwealth that could not afford to do much (or any) longform investigative reporting about critical issues of the day… by producing hard-hitting, heavily researched, news articles and sharing them with local news organizations in the public interest.
When the coronavirus crisis hit in March of last year, we expanded that mandate by creating the Pandemic Democracy Project to fund shorter news pieces relating to the societal impact of the dread disease.
So this year alone we have produced over 100 articles and have run them in over a dozen Bay State news outlets. And we have managed to pay good money to over 30 talented reporters out of the incredibly diverse crew of 200-plus that have worked with us since 2015—helping to sustain area journalists and local news organizations alike in a challenging time for both.
Stories like “Unprepared Nominee Another Example of Dysfunctional Mass Parole Board” by Jean Trounstine, “Mass Spent Millions on COVID Consultants to Rationalize Letting Eviction Moratorium Expire” by Dan Atkinson, and “Trooper Wilson’s War” by Chris Faraone.
BINJ literally stopped an anti-prisoner nominee from being appointed to the state parole board. And we shed the light of day on how state government blew money on greedy consultants rather than keeping people in their homes, and racism in the Mass State Police, and a host of other vitally important topics you won’t see covered anywhere else. Because unlike major news organizations in Massachusetts, we don’t exist to suck up to ruling elites with fawning softball stories. We’re here to do what we believe all journalists worthy of the job should be doing: afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted, as the old saying goes.
In an era when journalism itself is under threat of collapse after over a quarter century of profiteering by multinational media corporations and social media giants, we’re not content to just report the news. We have also found a second mandate for BINJ to help figure out ways to keep local journalism going for the foreseeable future—particularly at the local level where we’ve lost dozens of news outlets in this one small state alone since the 1990s.
That’s why we’ve worked with friendly state legislators and journalists from Provincetown to Pittsfield to pass a law to establish a Mass journalism commission to take a serious look at the local journalism crisis and come up with ways that state government can assist local news outlets without violating our independence.
We’ve also spent close to three years working with residents of Somerville to see if we can stop one small city from turning into what experts call a “news desert”—a municipality that no longer has any professionally produced news outlets. Out of community forums involving over 180 Somervillians, we started the Somerville News Garden project to try to create a replicable model that cities, towns, and counties around the state and nation could use to repair the damage that multinational corporations have done to their news infrastructure and make sure that all their residents have the information they need to be engaged participants in local affairs.
More than 40 Somerville residents have helped us to develop several initiatives, including a Research Group to figure out what kind of news people need about their city and what they think isn’t getting covered, and a Neighborhood Media School to train people on how to cover their own communities. In February, we were able to hire a new half-time staffer Shira Laucharoen to help me run our new municipal news service, the Somerville Wire—for which she’s produced two original feature articles and three short pieces a week ever since. And over the summer Shira won a Kozik Environmental Justice Reporting Grant from the National Press Foundation to produce a series called on the terrible effects of air pollution from Interstate 93 on the East Somerville neighborhood, including her most recent installment “Investigating the Interstate: The History of I-93’s Construction.”
Soon we’re even launching our own municipal foundation called the Somerville Media Fund to help raise money from local individuals, businesses, nonprofits, and government to fund nonprofit news production in the city of 85,000. All the work we’re doing with residents in Somerville can be thought of as a toolkit that other municipalities can choose from when they decide they want to tackle the crisis in local journalism themselves.
After years of ceaseless labor by the BINJ staff and reporters, we’ve built a professional nonprofit news operation second to none. Over the last two and a half years, we’ve gotten our own IRS 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, vastly expanded our board of directors, and increased the size and scope of our operations on every front.
But we’ve only been able to do everything I’ve mentioned above with ongoing financial support from thousands of individuals like you. People who know that it’s impossible to have a functioning democracy without strong independent news outlets staffed by dedicated, experienced, and highly-trained journalists.
Which is why we are pleased to have been accepted to the NewsMatch program run by the Institute for Nonprofit News and funded by the Miami Foundation this year that will provide us with the funds to match the first $10,000 in donations from our many individual supporters in November and December. Leading us to running our first-ever two-month fundraiser.
Now we’re asking everyone who can spare anything from $1 up to $1,000 to donate what you can to the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. And help us raise at least $10,000 that will be matched dollar for dollar. So every dollar you give us gets us an extra dollar. Meaning the first $10,000 we raise gets us $20,000 overall.
For a small feisty organization like BINJ that does all the many things we do on a budget smaller than the Washington Post’s snack fund, that kind of money is incredibly helpful. So dig deep and head over to givetobinj.org to help us help you keep fully informed about the news of the day in Massachusetts and beyond.
A slightly different version of this column also appeared in DigBoston.
Apparent Horizon—an award-winning political column—is syndicated by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. Jason Pramas is BINJ’s executive director, and executive editor and associate publisher of DigBoston. Copyright 2021 Jason Pramas.