The Power of Nonprofit News
On August 2, Ricardo Rosselló resigned as the governor of Puerto Rico. Rosselló came under fire in early July when the Puerto Rico Center for Investigative Journalism released private text messages sent between the former governor and his inner circle containing misogynistic, homophobic, and generally callous language regarding his constituents.
The text messages used prejudicial language to attack San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and the popular Puerto Rican pop star Ricky Martin. Rosselló ridiculed a constituent’s weight in one text. In another message, an administration staff member mocked people who died during Hurricane Maria, writing: “Don’t we have some cadavers to feed our crows?”
Rosselló tried to weather the scandal, attending televised church services and offering contrite public statements. But instead of letting the governor off the hook, hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans gathered in protest. Brandishing signs near the governor’s mansion that read “Street of the Corrupt” and hoisting Puerto Rican flags, the island’s inhabitants exercised their right to protest, drawing international attention and—ultimately—driving Rosselló and his cronies from power.
It is the first time in Puerto Rico’s history that a governor has been ousted outside of an election. This is no small feat for the island, whose population of three million have endured bankruptcy, an ongoing economic crisis, and the lingering fallout from Hurricane Maria.
This historic manifestation of people power began with the hard-hitting report released by the Puerto Rico Center for Investigative Journalism. The organization was the first nonprofit news outlet in the Caribbean when it launched in 2007. Since its inception, it has published countless stories in the public interest, offered training to young people interested in investigative journalism, and cultivated a legal office to fight for government transparency.
The news industry is in dire straits, as traditional outlets struggle to offer impactful journalism while generating enough income to remain profitable.
The Puerto Rico Center for Investigative Journalism and other nonprofits are stepping up to show that alternative organizational models are viable. Fact-based journalism is vital to a healthy democracy, and it is long past due for society to start treating it as a social good worthy of non-commercial, no-strings-attached financial support.