THE BINJ MISSION: The Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism produces bold reporting on issues related to social justice, and cultivates writers and multimedia producers to assist in that role. BINJ supports independent publications in various reportorial and organizational capacities, collaborates with partners on sustainable journalism and civic engagement initiatives, and aims to empower promising muckrakers with training and professional compensation.


After more than two years of tinkering and building our operation, BINJ has its house in order. Our network of freelancers is solid and prepared to take on increasingly challenging stories and projects. With that momentum and a streamlined fundraising operation, our crew now has a road map to share with others to incubate media in any town, city, or subject area where independent journalism is on life support.

We are laying out a scalable and replicable model that addresses how to build an operating ecosystem, which is a foundational network of media makers. For that you'll need to: find contributors, host meetups, facilitate youth media, cultivate columns, build a presence, and launch a sustainer program. We also break down how to grow and boost the media ecosystem in a city or region, and cover things like content distribution across mediums and platforms, and facilitating meaningful engagement. Among other things, we explain how to plug such an incubator into the national media ecosystem by building ties with national partners, and by repurposing local content for larger audiences.

We are excited that people, from activists to publishers and editors, are interested in using and interpolating different aspects of the model, and we truly hope that all of the above can learn from our trials, wins, and losses. These tools and lessons may be valuable to interests ranging from rural legacy papers to family-owned chains of medium-sized regional dailies, and to anybody looking to stimulate independent media. BINJ is a rare big-city reporting outfit with no ties to a university or well-funded institution. As noted above, after two and a half years of experimenting ourselves, we have a lot of notes and ideas about what actually works. Our goal is to pay it forward by empowering others and by helping collaborative culture spread far and wide while planting roots for up-and-coming generations of media makers to build on.

Our model calls for organizing where the voids are, starting with building operating ecosystems to provide support for journalists and all the various creatives who might intersect with their endeavors. An operation like BINJ can provide paid work and bylines, offer workshops on things like filing FOIA requests, and host job boards or provide a physical newsroom to work in. As more publications shutter and those that remain shed resources, the coverage gaps are only getting wider, and so one of our goals is to show others how to build relationships with others in a similar position.

An apparatus like BINJ is able to identify the gaps and lay down bridges for communication between publications and media makers to take place. This is especially important as the collaborative culture that is simultaneously blossoming between commercial enterprises—as well as comparable efforts by the massive likes of NPR and PBS affiliates—is largely inaccessible to ethnic, independent and alternative media makers. We have developed an extremely malleable model that can strengthen all of the above and that can be set up in short time while forging partnerships with small and independent outfits that need it most. This is a significant change from college shops, which gravitate to partners with the highest profiles. With the BINJ model, the playing field is made more level as resources go to the bottom.

We are doing this because others are not. The world of nonprofit reporting and funders is largely partitioned from the average journalist, whether they are in a major city or a small town. From what we have observed in attending conferences and participating in countless conversations over the past couple of years, no one else is in a rush to catalyze and guide those who want to start something from scratch that can bring hope to and energize increasingly crippled media ecosystems everywhere. Now that we have seen the potential impact of our model, with Baltimore and Little Rock outposts raising money on their own, we are confident that more will follow, and are here to provide as much support to them as possible.