Digital publication run by interns, freelancers, and staff—friends old and new
For more than eight years, the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism has built a reputation for producing hard-hitting, longform, investigative reporting about critical issues of the day in Massachusetts and syndicating it to a dozen partner-news organizations around the state. But aside from one short-lived print magazine aimed at the Boston tech sector, we’ve never had our own news publication. We had never had to since my partners Chris Faraone and John Loftus and I had managed to acquire a Boston commercial newspaper and run it alongside BINJ for six years. Unhappily, however, it was killed off by the pandemic economy a couple of months back.
Happily, though, it is with the very same crew of talented journalists, editors, photographers, multimedia specialists, and support staff who we’ve long had the privilege of working with—Jean Trounstine, Dan Atkinson, Maya Shaffer, Dana Forsythe, Nate Homan, Derek Kouyoumjian, Linda Pinkow, and many others—that we are now launching HorizonMass at horizonmass.news. A new general interest, statewide, digital news publication with the tagline “Independent student-driven reporting in the public interest.” Covering “Massachusetts and beyond.”
Why “student-driven?” Because for a small nonprofit journalism outfit, we have a very large internship program. For two reasons: the rolling collapse of the American news industry has left very few places for student journalists to practice their chosen craft before graduation, and word has gotten around over the years that we treat our interns like “equals with less experience” instead of like servants. We recruit talented young reporters; data hounds; photo, video, and audio mavens; designers; and marketers. We strive to be unfailingly honest with them at all times. We explain the dire situation the nonprofit news sector is in. We tell them the “quid pro quo” is that they can work with us as long or as short a time as they want, do a project or two, and then we recommend them for jobs and grad school (if they’re not already in grad school) as needed.
The result has been 12-19 interns (currently 18) in each of three cohorts every year. Meaning that we’ve had the honor of helping train over 200 students and recent graduates in the art and science of journalism over the last several years. And for the last few months, we’ve been telling our interns something new: “We’re starting a new news publication called HorizonMass and you all are going to help us run it.” We’re quite serious about that. This summer, for the first time, nine of our 16 reporting interns are also editorial interns. They’re helping Chris and me edit all the articles produced by our reporting interns. In exchange, reporting interns who produce at least one article and editorial interns who edit at least one get added to the HorizonMass masthead as reporters and assistant (or even associate) editors. A nice resume stuffer to be sure.
But there’s something else that makes HorizonMass special, if not for our current interns, then for our interns-to-be: Over the coming months, we’ll be approaching colleges and universities whose students we’re helping train and get scarce jobs in their chosen field and asking them to help us raise money to give those interns decent stipends for the time they work with us. Treating younger colleagues like human beings is self-evidently the right thing to do. But paying them properly must clearly be our ultimate goal.
In addition, all the big investigative pieces BINJ produces will be front and center on HorizonMass—and between that content and the shorter features our interns produce, we hope to give our loyal Bay State audience both the breadth and depth of coverage that you’ve come to expect from us.
Naturally, we’ll be making our usual fundraising asks a few times a year to help us keep our award-winning journalism nonprofit firing on all cylinders overall. And if you’re seeing this missive, you will certainly be receiving our requests for donations periodically.
But today, we just want to invite you to join us in celebrating the launch of our new publication, HorizonMass. And we’d like to thank all the BINJ staff, freelancers, interns, board members, and supporters that made it possible—particularly our longtime funder, the Reva and David Logan Foundation.
If you have any questions, comments, news tips, or suggestions for HorizonMass, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. To pros who’d like to pitch us story ideas, just understand we have a very limited freelance budget out of the gate. But we hope to plump that up at speed with our fans’ assistance.
All that said, we look forward to serving you with news from the ground up … as always.
This editorial was produced for HorizonMass, the independent, student-driven, news outlet of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, and is syndicated by BINJ’s MassWire news service.
Jason Pramas is editor-in-chief of HorizonMass and executive director of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism.