Unprecedented changes in journalism practices have been occurring since the 21st century ushered in the digital age. News gathering methods, means of information delivery, and consumer habits have altered dramatically because of technological advances, causing a disruption in the traditional business model. Newspapers, historically the key instrument for investigative and public affairs reporting in the United States, have been the media sector facing the biggest decline in revenue and circulation. While the audience is migrating to traditional news outlets online, the advertisers are not. Free services such as eBay and Craig's List have contributed to a nearly 50% drop in revenue for newspapers. Therefore, the once profitable news industry is no longer as attractive to corporate owners with commercial interests. The response has been severe budget and staff cuts. An estimated 30% of traditional journalism jobs have been eliminated. In response to the fiscal crisis, 60 nonprofit news organizations have formed, mostly online, with the mission of performing public service journalism. Hearings on the future of news have been held by a U.S. Senate committee, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Federal Communications Commission, which is researching whether these digitally native nonprofit news outlets should be eligible for government funding, similar to the public broadcasting system. The purpose of this exploratory study was to gain a better understanding of how these digitally native nonprofit journalists view their role in the future of public service journalism and determine whether government financing is appropriate or even desired by the leaders of these organizations. Findings suggest that the leaders view their role as necessary to democracy because they provide information about public affairs, serve as a watchdog of government officials, and engage the public in a discussion of community issues using digital technology. However, they cannot perform these functions alone. The leaders see partnerships with commercial and public media as key to their success. The respondents also are concerned with diversifying their revenue streams beyond foundation and philanthropic funding. They do not support direct government subsidies, however, because they believe that type of support would present ethical and credibility issues.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (EdD) -- Learning technologies; Online journalism; Nonprofit organizations

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

McManus, John F.;