A New (Short) Book on Nonprofit News Management
It arrives Monday, and your reactions are eagerly solicited.
Welcome to Second Rough Draft, a newsletter about journalism in our time, how it (often its business) is evolving, and the challenges it faces.
This week’s column is going to be a bit different. I want to talk about a book that’s being published next Monday, a book of mine. I think it will be of particular interest to many readers of this newsletter, and I want to tell you why.
The book (really more of a booklet, at 12,000 words) is called Elements of Nonprofit News Management. It’s being published as an ebook (though it will also be available in print-on-demand format) by my friends and clients at the Lenfest Institute for Journalism. We’re holding a Zoom conversation about the book on Monday afternoon, and you’re invited. Attendees will get a free copy. Neither Lenfest nor I are trying to make money here: I was not paid to write the book, and will receive nothing from sales; Lenfest is seeking to recover the costs of design, copy editing and printing (but probably won’t); the ebook price is 99 cents.
Elements, including its title, is inspired in part by the iconic Elements of Style (otherwise known by the names of its authors, Strunk & White), which has been an invaluable guide for writers for more than six decades now and the almost-as-iconic The Elements of Journalism by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel.
In my narrower and more modest Elements, I’ve tried to pull together some of the most important things I’ve learned about running nonprofit news organizations over the last 15 years, mostly at ProPublica, but also in consulting with dozens of news organizations over the last 18 months. It very much builds on some preliminary lessons I laid out in the Columbia Journalism Review last year, and on some of the things I have been wrestling with in this newsletter, and in an earlier newsletter for ProPublica. But there’s also quite a bit of new material, and I hope a more systematic approach.
The book has six chapters, and their titles should give you a sense of its scope: Getting Started; Money: Where to Get It; The Board; People; Law and the Newsroom; Sustainability. It’s not encyclopedic or exhaustive—it’s written to be read, and limited to things on which I believe I have something to say that goes beyond conventional wisdom.
It is relentlessly practical, an attempt to provide some guidance to the thousands of people around this country who are trying to build, from the ground up, a new news ecosystem to fill some of the gaping holes that have opened up in the wake of 17 years now of an unrelenting business crisis of the legacy press. I feel myself very much part of a movement with them, and want to do everything I can to strengthen that movement.
Having said all of that, I don’t pretend for a minute that I have all of the necessary answers. I invite your questions on Monday’s Zoom, and your reactions to the book once you’ve seen it, both in the comments below, and directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beyond that, I am acutely aware that our field continues to evolve, occasionally in unpredictable ways and sometimes at astonishing speed. That’s one of the reasons I enjoy writing this newsletter, and so deeply appreciate your reading it. I hope you will see it too as a forum to track and debate that evolution. In the meantime, I hope also that you will find some value in Elements of Nonprofit News Management. You can pre-order the ebook here and the softcover through a link from here.
Second Rough Draft will likely be on vacation for the next week or two. We’ll see you in November. Vote like the Constitution depends on it; it may.
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