Legal Structures for Digital Journalism

Journalism / Article

Jose Zamora is a Journalism Program Associate at Knight Foundation

Knight News Challenge winner, Tony Shawcross and the staff of Denver Open Media, had a session titled “NonProfit & Your Startup” at the SWSW Interactive Festival in Austin, TX.

The main focus of the session was to discuss why they thought structuring projects as a 501(c)(3) was the best choice for anyone doing online publishing. The main reason for DOM was that a nonprofit organization is organized to achieve a purpose other than generating profit.

That is one good reason for structuring your enterprise as a nonprofit, but there are many more considerations that have to be made when deciding how to incorporate your online publishing project. The legal structure chosen will have an impact on the organization’s liability for defamation and other legal claims. It will also have an impact on the organization’s tax obligations, its assets and its management.

Many of today’s digital journalism sites have structured their operation as a nonprofit. Examples of this are ProPublica,, Voice of San Diego, St. Louis Beacon and Chi-Town Daily News.

Choosing a legal structure for your online publishing site is important. You can learn more about how to set-up the legal framework for your organization on the Creating a Business page on the Citizen Media Law Project Web site.

If you prefer one business structure over another, please tell us why and comment below.

The graphic below is a visualization of this post. It was created using a program called many eyes.