The Marshall Project is a single-subject nonprofit news organization that covers the U.S. criminal justice system. Its mission is “to create and sustain a sense of urgency about criminal justice in America.” It aims to reach a broad audience through partnerships while also creating a loyal community of individuals with direct experience of the system.
This funding would allow The Marshall Project to test whether building niche communities will grow its overall audience. The pilot project, the Justice Education Network (JEN), is intended to be a content and community hub that would enable high school teachers to incorporate criminal justice news into the classroom.
The Marshall Project believes making these issues more accessible will help it reach, engage and retain a younger and atypical audience. The project will include a toolkit of lesson plans, background guides, and tips on discussing sensitive criminal justice issues with students, as well as a Facebook group for teachers.
The project aims to grow both audience and revenue. The Marshall Project plans to make its subject guides available for purchase, develop a training workshop for teachers and eventually seek sponsors.The organization plans to blog about learnings as the project unfolds so that other newsrooms can follow or adapt the engagement strategy.
Reviewers felt the project holds the promise of opening up new readership, sponsorship and other revenue lines. The pilot approach is smart and the lessons learned could provide a useful model for nonprofit news organizations focused on single subjects.