American Independent News Network
The American Independent News Network, formerly The Center for Independent Media until January 2010, is an American 501(c)(3) non-profit founded in May 2006 with the stated mission of funding websites that report news from an independent, investigative perspective. The organization looked to develop internet-based local reporting, which could in turn improve the level of public discourse. It operates an independent news network which consists of state-based daily news sites The Colorado Independent, The Florida Independent, The Iowa Independent, The Michigan Messenger, The Minnesota Independent, The New Mexico Independent, and The Washington Independent.
The network states that its mission is to "investigate and disseminate news that impacts public debate and advances the common good. To accomplish its mission, The American Independent News Network operates an independent online news network. An informed citizenry is a fundamental principle of civil society and American democracy; in the words of the Supreme Court in Garrison v. Louisiana: 'Speech concerning public affairs is more than self-expression; it is the essence of self government.' Our reporting emphasizes the positive role of democratically elected government in securing the common good and social welfare, and the continuing benefits of our founding culture of egalitarian government by the people, for the people."
History and programs
The organization was founded as The Center for Independent Media in April 2006 by David S. Bennahum, a former journalist with Wired. Its inaugural venture was a New Journalist Pilot Program whose aim was "to strengthen the network of progressive blogs on a state-by-state basis," providing short term financial support for qualified applicants, while being trained. The Center expanded that into a permanent New Journalist Training Program, and later provided support for online journalists through its New Journalist Editorial Program, which, in the words of the Center, provides "talented online journalists with direct support to conduct original reporting." Many of the participants in the editorial program are graduates of the training program.
The purpose of the organization expanded to creating and supporting a network of independent online news organizations. As of August 2010[update] the network consists of six state-based sites and a Washington D.C. site. Colorado Confidential (now The Colorado Independent) was the first to launch, in May 2006, followed in August by The Minnesota Monitor, now the Minnesota Independent. Iowa Independent and Michigan Messenger debuted in 2007. The Washington Bureau and The Washington Independent were launched in January 2008, followed by The New Mexico Independent in April 2008. In May 2010, The Florida Independent was established.
In January 2010, the Center for Independent Media changed its name to The American Independent News Network to "more accurately reflect the true nature of [its] work as an online news network."
In November, 2010, inadequate funding led to an announced plan to consolidate the AINN site with the Washington Independent one, though in 2011 both sites, plus the seven regional sites, continued operational.
In July, 2011, the Pew Foundation's Project for Excellence in Journalism was reported to have found that, among other non-profit news outlets, "the liberal American Independent News Network [doesn't] ... reveal much about who’s paying their bills, and [its] work skews clearly in one direction, both in the topics [it covers] and the content of individual stories".
On November 17, 2011, Lynda Waddington of The Iowa Independent wrote that The Michigan Messenger and The Minnesota Independent had been closed down and that The Iowa Independent could soon follow. There have been no new entries to the site since that date. On April 27, 2012 The Florida Independent announced that it was ending at the end of that month.
Sites supported by the organization have received professional recognition. In May 2007, Jason Bane and other staff members at The Colorado Confidential were recognized for coverage of online breaking news by the Society of Professional Journalists. Minnesota Monitor media writer Paul Schmelzer won a 2007 Frank Premack Award for Public Affairs Journalism from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism  and a 2nd Place in the 2006 Society of Professional Journalists Page One Awards. The Minnesota Monitor was nominated for the Koufax Awards in 2007 and Andy Birkey was a finalist for the 2007 Online Journalism Award for his coverage of LGBT issues.
In 2008, The Colorado Confidential was awarded the top prize for Online/General Web Site Excellence as well as Online/Interactive, in addition to other prizes, by the Society of Professional Journalists in Colorado. The Colorado Confidential was also recognized for coverage of the Colorado State House by the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors. The Minnesota Independent received prizes in the categories of Best Online News Story, Best Independent Newsroom Blog, and Best Independent News Site from the Society of Professional Journalists in Minnesota. The Michigan Messenger's reporter Eartha Jane Melzer received Honorable Mention from the National Press Club's Sandy Hume Award for Excellence in Political Journalism.
In 2009, the Associations of State Capitol Reporters and Editors honored The New Mexico Independent and The Iowa Independent with first place prizes for Single Reporting and Beat Reporting, respectively. The Society of Professional Journalists in Washington, DC honored The Washington Independent's finance reporter Mary Kane with first prize for Daily Newspaper Feature and second prize for Daily Newspaper Business Reporting. In Minnesota, the Society of Professional Journalists honored The Minnesota Independent with first place wins in the categories of Best Single News Story, Best Use of Multimedia, Best Use of Video, and Best Independent News Blog, in addition to four other prizes.
In 2010, the Society of Professional Journalists in Minnesota awarded The Minnesota Independent three times: Birkey received first prize for Best Continuing Coverage (Online), Kathy Easthagen received first prize for Best Spot News Photo, and the site received second prize for Best Web Site.
Reporters with The American Independent News Network have won over 40 prizes for excellence in journalism. A current list is kept up to date, here.
The American Independent News Network supports a number of writing fellows. Spencer Ackerman, who has written for The New Republic and Talking Points Memo writes for The Washington Independent. Ed Brayton, a freelance writer who blogs at Dispatches from the Culture Wars, is the state editor for The Michigan Messenger. John Tomasic previously edited The Huffington Post's "Off the Bus" and is the current editor of The Colorado Independent.
Alumni of the American Independent News Network include David Weigel, formerly with The Washington Independent, is a blogger for Slate; Mike Lillis, formerly with The Washington Independent, is now writing for The Hill; and Wendy Norris, formerly the editor of The Colorado Independent, is now the editor and publisher of Western Citizen.
The American Independent News Network provides a full, updated list of its funders on its website.
- About The American Independent News Network website.
- Search for Charities, Online Version of Publication 78 Search Results IRS. Retrieved August 6, 2010.
- "Center for Independent Media » About". 2006. Archived from the original on October 5, 2006. Retrieved August 5, 2010.
- "New Journalist Application". 2007. Archived from the original on February 17, 2007. Retrieved August 5, 2010.
- "About". Center for Independent Media. 2007. Archived from the original on October 19, 2007. Retrieved August 5, 2010.
- "The Florida Independent Launches" (Press release). American Independent News Network. May 24, 2010.
- McGann, Laura, "The Washington Independent is folding, the CEO goes over the books and outlines the lessons he’s learned", Neiman Journalism Lab, November 19, 2010 11 am. Retrieved 2011-12-04.
- Benton, Joshua, "Pew: Nonprofit journalism doesn’t mean ideYology-free", Neiman Journalism Lab, July 18, 2011 9 am. Link to Pew study. Retrieved 2011-12-04.
- Marty, Robin (March 11, 2008). "Minnesota Monitor's Schmelzer wins a 2007 Premack Public Affairs Journalism Award". Minnesota Monitor. Archived from the original on March 11, 2008.
- Marty, Robin (May 31, 2007). "Center for Independent Media's 'New Journalist Program' Bloggers Win Journalism Awards". Minnesota Monitor. Archived from the original on 2007-10-21. Retrieved August 4, 2010.
- Marty, Robin (June 1, 2007). "Minnesota Monitor nominated for a Koufax Award". The Minnesota Monitor. Archived from the original on June 1, 2007.
- "2007 Online Journalism Awards - Finalists". Online Beat Reporting (Small) - Minnesota Monitor GLBT Beat. Online News Association. Archived from the original on 2007-10-02. Retrieved August 5, 2010.
- Awards The American Independent News Network website.
- "Full list of 2010 Page One Award Winners" (Word). Minnesota Chapter. Society of Professional Journalists. May 21, 2010. Retrieved August 5, 2010.
- Schmelzer, Paul (May 24, 2010)."Minnesota Independent wins journalism prizes for coverage of Christian ministry, Obama rally". The Minnesota Independent.
- Donations The American Independent News Network website.