Media Organizations: The Nonprofit Option

On August 28, 2009, at the Seize the Moment conference on ethnic and community news media sponsored by the Renaissance Journalism Center and ZeroDivide, I co-presented a program on "The Nonprofit Option."  My co-presenter was Clarisa Morales Roberts, Executive Director of Independent Arts & Media, who provided a passionate operational perspective to the program.

Synopsis:  There has been a great deal of buzz in the newspaper industry about the nonprofit option.  Struggling papers are looking at alternative vehicles in which they might continue to survive.  And for some, the nonprofit option might make sense.  But restructuring as a nonprofit is no panacea.  Not only will the corporate and governance structure change, but the newspaper's focus and operations must also change.  For other newspapers, the L3C (low-profit limited liability company) may be a more attractive alternative in the future, pending some favorable legislation.

You can find an abbreviated PowerPoint of my presentation here - Download SeizeTheMoment.

Here is a list of some of the topics I covered:

  • What does it mean to be a nonprofit?
  • What does it mean to be a 501(c)(3) organization?
  • What is an "educational" purpose under the tax regs?
  • What doesn't it mean to be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit?
  • IRS criteria re: publishing activities and 501(c)(3)?
  • Starting a nonprofit
  • The L3C Alternative
  • How are a charity and L3C different?
  • What is a program-related investment?

Some 501(c)(3) nonprofit newspapers:

  • Voice of San Diego
  • ProPublica (NY)
  • Central City Extra (SF)
  • El Tecolote (SF)
  • Nichi Bei Weekly* (SF)
  • MinnPost
  • Dallas South News
  • Christian Science Monitor
  • St. Petersburg Times (actually a for-profit subsidiary of the nonprofit Poynter Institute)

* In the interests of full disclosure, I represent the Nichi Bei Foundation, the new nonprofit organization that will soon be publishing the Nichi Bei Weekly to take over providing news to the Japanese-American community after the for-profit Nichi Bei Times shuts down.  For more, on this story, click here.

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