A Nonprofit Approach To News

The following post was submitted by CyberJournalist.net reader Bob Ingrassia:

How can a local news organization make a big pile of money online? With MinnPost, Joel Kramer offers an interesting answer: don’t even try.

MinnPost, a Minnesota-oriented news site that launched Nov. 8, is a nonprofit operation. Promising a “thoughtful approach to news,” MinnPost aims to serve the public good with quality stories and commentary readers won’t get anywhere else.

The idea is to do good journalism without facing profit pressure from Wall Street or anyone else. You won’t see celebrity slideshows, viral videos or other sure-fire “clickers” here (unless you count goofball contributor Al Sicherman’s poetry contest).

Kramer, former publisher of the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune, assembed a nest egg of $850,000 from four philanthropic families, including his own, to get the site off the ground. MinnPost also boasts a growing stable of individual donors.

MinnPost’s lineup of contributors also sets it apart from most digital news startups. Kramer is not relying on user contributions or citizen journalists. Instead, most of MinnPost’s contributors are veteran journalists, many of them reporters who recently took buyouts from the downsizing Star Tribune and St. Paul Pioneer Press. MinnPost employs several editors, but pays writers by the piece.

Kramer took pains during the launch not to criticize bloggers and hobby writers. But he got some flak for MinnPost’s holier-than-thou “thoughtful approach” motto and the insistence that its short-form posts are not blog entries. The mocking began right away with MinnToast, which serves up a “thoughtfully buttered approach to news.”

Nearly a month into MinnPost, Kramer took some time this week to assess the venture.

The Q&A is at stateoflocal.com.