People with Purpose: Putting the NFP into news

Posted on 15 Mar 2024

By Greg Thom, journalist, Institute of Community Directors Australia

Press Club CEO Nick Richardson

Veteran journalist Nick Richardson knew he was on the write track when he embraced new opportunities in the philanthropic and not-for-profit sector.

Tell us a little bit about your background in journalism.

I’ve been in and around journalism for a long time. I started at a regional daily newspaper, The Examiner, in Launceston, as a copy boy.

I covered all the stories that young journos did back then – from the gruesome to the uplifting, from courts to sport – and then worked in England for a few years.

I came back to Australia and worked in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne in a range of reporting and editorial management roles. I’ve also taught journalism too – at RMIT, Monash and LaTrobe universities.

How did you come to be involved in the philanthropic and not-for-profit sector?

I have to say that I didn’t intend to become part of the not-for-profit sector. It was a happy accident, really.

I was looking around for a writing job that offered access to a different world and a whole range of fresh story ideas.

I happened upon the role of what was then called “Storyteller’’ at Philanthropy Australia, the national peak body. I applied and was fortunate enough to have the role for three years. It was a crash-course in understanding a particular element of the NFP world – that fascinating intersection between funders and recipients.

"I have to say that I didn’t intend to become part of the not-for-profit sector. It was a happy accident, really."

What attracted you to the role of CEO of the Melbourne Press Club and how would you define the club’s role as a not-for-profit?

The Melbourne Press Club is perhaps not often perceived to be a NFP. And on the face of it, the Club is not like the conventional picture of an NFP.

We are not, for example, a charity, although we do have DGR1 status. And we are not an organisation that has been set up to support a particular cause or to service the general community.

But we do exist to support, advocate for and celebrate journalists and their journalism.

In all honesty, I think the pressures on journalism are unprecedented – they’re not just the commercial pressures, but issues of trust, credibility, access and diversity are all part of the mix.

That’s what attracted me to the MPC role – there was a real opportunity to support journalists to continue doing what they do at a difficult time for the job.

What is the Regional Journalism Fellowship program and how did it come about?

It was an idea that evolved after a couple of conversations, initially with Pat Burke at Philanthropy Australia and then with the Brian M Davis Charitable Foundation.

The kernel of it was trying to find a way to build capacity in regional journalism, an area that is struck hard by the closure of mastheads due to shrinking advertising markets and the rise of alternative digital news sources.

After a discussion with the Foundation, it made sense to frame the idea around its funding priorities – to build employment pathways for school leavers from diverse backgrounds in regional areas.

Once that was clear, it was a matter of identifying who would be suited to being our on-ground partners.

I had connected with the Greater Shepparton Foundation a couple of years ago and I knew that the McPherson Media Group published the Shepparton News. I spoke to the Greater Shepparton Foundation, who linked me in with the Shepparton News, and from there, we started a dialogue.

The result is the Regional Journalism Fellowship Program, which provides two six-month cadetships for school leavers, in this instance from the Shepparton region, to work at the Shepparton News.

The Brian M Davis Foundation grant supports the cadetships. We have the first cadet in place and the second is expected to start in a couple of months.

How important is an initiative such as the Regional Journalism Fellowship program to the future of journalism in Australia?

It’s a very, very small step. My hope is that it works to build a template that can be used in other regional areas and with other funders.

All of us in journalism know that the commercial challenges to the job show no sign of lessening: we need to explore every way we can to support journalism.

We are fortunate at the Melbourne Press Club to have a range of sponsors and partners – from our principal partner, the University of Melbourne, to a range of commercial, legal and, of course, media supporters, as well as partner the Gandel Foundation.

But we also need to explore every option not only to create jobs in journalism, but to support that with training, professional development, and a career path that ensures journalism has a robust future in supporting democracy.

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