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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A nonprofit consortium of nonprofit journalism organizations had a record 28% membership growth last year.

Why it matters: The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed some struggling newsrooms to embrace the nonprofit model, an arrangement that allows news companies to accept charitable donations while still being able to sell ads and subscriptions.

By the numbers: The Institute for Nonprofit News says it helped facilitate five newsroom conversions to nonprofit status last year.

  • INN now counts 309 nonprofit journalism groups as members as of February. Its 2020 member growth included 26 startups, which helped to create new news organizations in news deserts across the country.
  • The group's NewsMatch fundraising campaign, the largest grassroots campaign to support nonprofit news in the U.S., exceeded $5 million for the very first time last year, with a 34% increase in newsroom participants (261 in total).

The big picture: The trend is continuing into 2021, as more local papers face pandemic-driven advertising headwinds.

The Baltimore Sun, The Capital Gazette in Annapolis, and a few other smaller papers, are being sold to a Maryland-based nonprofit as a part of hedge fund Alden Global Capital's agreement to buy Tribune Publishing last week.

  • The nonprofit, called the Sunlight for All Institute, is a public charity formed by Stewart Bainum Jr., a former Maryland politician and hotel magnate.

Earlier this month, 14 New Jersey weekly papers announced they are being converted to nonprofits.

Be smart: Nonprofit journalism isn't a new trend, but more for-profit entities are trying to change their status to nonprofits in recent history.

  • The Philadelphia Inquirer and its sister websites were donated to the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, which is part of the Philadelphia Foundation and named after the outlets' owner.
  • The Salt Lake Tribune became a nonprofit so that it could start soliciting donations in 2019.

Between the lines: The nonprofit model has been challenged by IRS hesitation to categorize news companies, especially newspapers, as non-commercial entities.

  • "We explained to the IRS that their historic concern about newspapers being ‘commercial’ doesn’t reflect the current reality," said Meghan Biss, an attorney with the exempt organizations practice at Caplin & Drysdale who helped the Salt Lake Tribune pivot to a non-profit model in 2019.

The bottom line: "We have to subsidize reporting if we want democracy to survive," says Elizabeth Green, the CEO and co-founder of the non-profit local news company Chalkbeat. "Markets will not pay for all we need."

  • "It’s a classic public good problem: we all benefit from local news about public interest topics, even if we don’t pay for it," she said. "What advertising once subsidized now needs philanthropic support to thrive." 

Go deeper: Struggling media companies pivot to non-profits

Go deeper

27 mins ago - Health

Health care in the New Washington

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

As America emerges from the pandemic, here's a special Axios AM Deep Dive on the Biden administration's health care agenda.

43 mins ago - World

Palestinian Authority announces new COVID restrictions as cases surge

A nurse administers the COVID-19 vaccine to a Palestinian in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron. Photo: Hazem Bader/AFP via Getty Images

The Palestinian Authority on Saturday announced fresh coronavirus restrictions, including a partial lockdown, for the occupied West Bank as COVID-19 cases surge.

The big picture: The new measures come as Israel, which leads the world in vaccinations, faces increased pressure to ensure Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip have equal access to vaccines.

Myanmar military fires UN ambassador after anti-coup speech

Photo: Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Myanmar's military regime on Saturday fired the country's Ambassador to the United Nations, Kyaw Moe Tun, a day after he gave a pro-democracy speech asking UN member nations to publicly condemn the Feb. 1 coup, The New York Times reports.

Details: State television said the ambassador had "betrayed the country and spoken for an unofficial organization which doesn’t represent the country and had abused the power and responsibilities of an ambassador."

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