What is the Public News Service?

"The services and in-depth journalism knowledge and experience of PNS is invaluable to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s media outreach strategies. In particular, I know our KIDS COUNT network has come to rely on the coverage that they receive on their public interest issues and strategies relating to child well-being in their states."

~ Sue Lin Chong, Senior Communications Manager,
The Annie E. Casey Foundation

Early funding from Ford and the Northwest Area Foundation expanded the innovative Public News Service (PNS) model, which started as the brainchild of former Reuters' producer Lark Corbeil. Driven by the lack of balanced coverage at the local level, she pioneered the first member-supported public interest news service in the commercial space the same year Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

Now managing a network of independent state-based news services in 36 states (and growing), PNS is reaching an average multi-media audience of Over 50 Million per week. (See the map below of over 8,000 media outlets using our content.) Alternet calls us "the most widely used independent news service you've never heard of..."

Map of over 8,000 media outlets using out content.

In 2015, Public News Service produced 4,682 news stories which ran, conservatively, over 140,732 times on 3,818 radio stations, 1,089 print outlets and 201 television stations for a national total of 5,108 bricks and mortar outlets, and 10s of 1,000s of websites.

Impact Journalism

Our mission is an informed and engaged citizenry making educated decisions in service to democracy; and our role is to inform, inspire, excite and sometimes reassure people in a constantly changing information environment through reporting that spans political, geographic and technical divides.

According to Harvard social scientist James Scott, for major social shifts to come about, people must 1) know they are not alone in their thinking; 2) believe an idea is viable; and 3) have hope that change is possible. (Power and the Arts of Domination: Hidden Transcripts, 1992).

Every news story has the potential to do all three, and we track the policy milestones on issues we cover.

Making a Difference in Today's Turbulent Media Environment

"Journalism on healthy living, health care and health coverage in general is reaching key audiences throughout the state of Colorado. The editorial staff determines the best stories to cover that will reach the most readers and listeners. Each story is typically picked up by 35-50 radio stations and a couple of print publications, and we're able to repurpose those stories through social media and our own portfolio to reach even more people."

~ Suzanne Beranek, Director of Communications: Policy and Philanthropy,
The Colorado Health Foundation

Our society's ability to support a vibrant democracy and stay educated on the issues that affect our lives is challenged by increasingly fragmented media with under-resourced newsrooms. The result is not more voices, but more of the same voices - just louder - dominating public dialogue on mainstream media.

Our solution: We deliver multi-platform and bilingual (Spanish) public interest news to ALL the news outlets in a given state and its border markets: broadcast, print, online and social media.

During these very tough economic times, we are humbled and proud that our reporting is independently supported by a diverse funding stream that includes grants, gifts and membership from individuals, foundations, corporate sponsorship and 100s of NGOs in 36 states (AZ, AR, CA, CO, CT, FL, IA, ID, IL, IN, KY, MA, MD, ME, MI, MN, MO, MT, NC, ND, NH, NM, NV, NY, OH, OR, PA, SD, TN, TX, UT, VA, WA, WI, WV and WY.)

Our foundation partnerships are more important now than ever...Your support could help us launch a new state, provide more investigative reporting, or cover "orphan" issues that are currently un- or under-reported. In recent years we successfully launched in North Carolina with support from the Park Foundation; in Arizona with support from the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust; and in Maine with support from Ben & Jerry's and the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Why Solution-Focused Journalism Matters (More Than Ever)

There is a 'new normal' as journalism reinvents itself. Gaining access to the dominant media is increasingly dependent on being able to relate to journalists in time-saving ways.

Often this expertise comes with a hefty price tag, and those with fewer resources have a harder time being heard and taken seriously in the public arena. In fact, annual spending in the U.S. on PR services (already at $4 billion) is expected to grow 55 percent (to $8.3 billion) from 2009 to 2013. (See complete article.)

The public officially owns the airwaves, but the companies that run them sell that airspace, and in general media outlets see any space under their control as "real estate" with financial value. Larger corporations and charitable institutions have the resources to underwrite content in return for branding and advertising. Public broadcasting allows small donors to vote for the specific programs they like. Our model allows anyone to fund, or help fund, independent reporting on any issue, and our content has to be extremely useful for other outlets to give up their "real estate" for it.

Funding Mechanism

Our memberships, gifts, grants and sponsorship allow anyone to be a philanthropist and help fund a beat. Similar to 'voting' for your favorite program on public broadcasting, there is explicit understanding that our journalists maintain all editorial authority.

A minimum foundation membership contribution typically provides resources to report on 6-8 stories, depending on the overall funding raised annually in a state. We welcome pitches from our supporters and assistance in finding spokespeople and information for timely news stories on the issues they care about. Our job is to cover the issues that matter: supporters are not excluded from being quoted themselves, however any branding opportunity is ancillary and minimal. (For branding needs or campaigning, please check out our corporate sponsor SoundBite Services (SBS). All profits from SBS go to fund PNS.)

How We Work

"PNS extends the reach and amplifies the voices of those too often left out of [mainstream media discussions]. Supporting it is one of the most effective investments a nonprofit can make."

~ Marcia Egbert, Senior Program Officer, The George Gund Foundation

Our producers generate story ideas and take pitches. Usually all it takes is an email or phone call to pitch a story - news releases are not necessary - and being available by phone for fact-checking once the story is done. Each completed news story (with versions for broadcasters, online, print and podcasts) is sent to media outlets statewide, national networks when appropriate, and followed up with a detailed pickup report which is extremely valuable for evaluation and accountability oversight.

We are flexible in meeting the goals and supporting foundations' missions. Here are some ways we partner now:

  • Direct PNS membership to fund issue reporting in increments of 8 stories in one or multiple news services
  • Funding grantees to join with their own news service memberships (full or matching)
  • Providing funds to launch a new state or new initiative (Spanish, video, training, etc.)
  • Working in colloboration with our 501c3 partner Media in the Public Interest where we also have exciting training opportunities available for you and you grantees