Funders, nonprofit journalists and academics gathered this week at the Council on Foundations convention in Los Angeles to discuss challenges nonprofit news outlets face in getting charitable 501c3 status. It’s part of a project called the Nonprofit Media Working Group, a partnership between Knight Foundation and the Council.
The working group is chaired by Steve Waldman, senior media policy scholar at Columbia University. Waldman was the lead author of the first major government report in a generation on the state of local news. Among the findings of that FCC report are that IRS nonprofit media rules appear out of date and thus unhelpful to the growing field.
On Monday night, Waldman moderated a foundation convention panel to discuss the issue. Attendees watched a HDTV segment from Dan Rather Reports outlining the story of Public Press, a small San Francisco news outlet that has been seeking nonprofit status for more than two years.
The Rather segment reported the growth of nonprofit media. It speculated that the IRS may be confused or overwhelmed by the nonprofit digital media requests, noting that the rules under which the IRS grants nonprofit media status were created long before the internet. Rather’s story did not interview any IRS officials; the service issued a statement saying it could not comment on the specifics of any single case. It said when it receives “novel” applications, they get special consideration.