The winter 2015 print edition is in stores now. Special report on the persistence of segregation in local public schools. Plus: 24-page insert commemorating the now shuttered weekly San Francisco Bay Guardian, produced by the newspaper’s former staff.
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‘Dan Rather Reports’: San Francisco Public Press, others, face IRS roadblock
Last week’s edition of “Dan Rather Reports” featured a revelatory 13-minute report on the San Francisco Public Press and a handful of other nonprofit journalism startups around the country whose nonprofit status has been held up at the Internal Revenue Service for months.
The segment, “Taxing News,” (April 10 edition, “The Queen of Green” — download in iTunes for $1.99 or by subscription on Xfinity by Comcast) examined the Public Press’ 27-month-long struggle to be named an independent 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.
In the show, broadcast on HDNet, Rather said that like other startup news organizations, the Public Press could benefit greatly from the IRS designation because its community-supported membership model relies largely on individual donors for financial support to sustain its mission of publishing public-interest local news online and in print.
“We’re not in the business of selling eyeballs to advertisers,” said Michael Stoll, executive director of the Public Press, in the report. “We’re in the business of selling news to residents to help them understand the civic values of the community. It’s completely different from what a commercial newspaper does.”
Rather’s investigation revealed that the delay results from an IRS re-examination of the decades-old criteria for determining which groups fall under the “educational” exemption in awarding nonprofit status; journalism is currently not on this list.
“What’s going on is that we are seeing a shift in the journalism industry in terms of the models which are being used to carry out the act of journalism,” said Jeff Hermes, director of the Digital Media Law Project at Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. “You have more applications coming into the IRS — the IRS stands back and goes, ‘Wait. Just wait. We need to figure this out and we need to do it in a logical fashion and it's going to take some time.”
Other nonprofits that are members of the Investigative News Network, a network of more than 60 nonprofit organizations in North America including the Public Press, have run into similar problems, said the group’s executive director, Kevin Davis.
“If the IRS were to basically stop handing out 501(c)3’s, or worse, pull back from existing 501(c)3’s to limit their functions, then effectively they could kill this new movement,” Davis said.
Rather noted that “nonprofit journalism is hardly a new concept,” citing the Associated Press and National Public Radio, which long ago received nonprofit status. “For decades, both have relied on tax-exempt contributions and donation drives to stay afloat,” Rather said.
Though it can already accept tax-deductible donations through a fiscal sponsor, San Francisco-based 501(c)3 Independent Arts & Media, the Public Press could benefit greatly from official IRS designation. Foundations are more inclined to award grants to organizations with independent 501(c)3 status, which is viewed as an important benchmark for a sustainable operation.
One-stop shopping for news links in San Francisco.
Regional news updates and a lot of lifestyle coverage.
A local version of the national liberal politics website.
News website for KQED.org, focused on the Bay Area and beyond.
Locally focused, short info bits and a lot of opinion.
Insights on Silicon Valley and real estate.
Mostly SF-focused, “progressive” political agenda.
News, lifestyle and snarky writing.
Liberal politics blog run by the Tenderloin Housing Clinic.
Photographer/blogger Luke Thomas’ City Hall news-and-opinion site.
Some original reporting and aggregation, with a good bit of culture thrown in.
Plenty of attitude with coverage of MUNI & bikes and links to most of the important stories going on in SF.
S.F. politics and arts scene. Plenty of opinion pieces.
San Francisco news and politics.
Neighborhood news from aspiring journalists.
Promotes good planning and good government in the Bay Area.
SF Bay Times
News and events calendar for the GLBTQ.
Newspaper serving the LGBTQ community.
News website serving the Asian/Pacific Islander American community.
Architecture and some planning coverage.
The Noe Valley Voice
SF Bay View
The Western Edition
Visitacion Valley Grapevine
The Potrero View
Rincon Hill Neighborhood Association blog
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"TK" provides his unique perspective on life in San Francisco.
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Critical Mass blog.
Part of the national livable streets initiative.
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SF school board member.
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