Established in 2007, ProPublica.org (the first digital-only newsroom to win the Pulitzer Prize) sets a standard for nonprofit media of our time. In addition to being innovators in crowdsourcing, the newsroom is also ahead of the curve in being transparent about their goals.
The stated mission is to “expose abuses of power and betrayals of the public trust by government, business, and other institutions, using the moral force of investigative journalism to spur reform through the sustained spotlighting of wrongdoing.”
ProPublica journalists are clear that for them it’s not enough to inform about wrongdoings – they want their journalism to have a real-life impact.
Here is what stands out from ProPublica‘s statement.
Public interest impact
They have a separate page on their website dedicated solely to the impact of ProPublica’s journalism.
- ProPublica: “Among other positive changes, our reporting has contributed to the passage of new laws; reversals of harmful policies and practices; and accountability for leaders at local, state and national levels.”
One example is the story of Grace, a black teen who was jailed in Michigan for not doing her online coursework. ProPublica Illinois was the first to report on the story and eventually Grace was released from a juvenile detention facility.
Why the approach matters
The crucial rule about the Impact Approach is that ProPublica’s impact has to be in the public interest (as opposed to corporate or government interests). As NYU professor Jay Rosen, the initiator of the Coming From project, put it in a recent essay, “This is a kind of agenda. But it’s compatible with the principles of good journalism, and it tells people what to expect.”