News from the Field

Philanthropy, media and the value of evidence: A conversation with MIF Executive Director Vince Stehle and Rita Allen Foundation President Elizabeth Christopherson

By Elizabeth Chrisopherson | President & CEO, Rita Allen Foundation

A conversation with Vince Stehle of Media Impact Funders about the role of philanthropy in a changing media landscape.

Vince Stehle began his career in philanthropy as a reporter for The Chronicle of Philanthropy, and later helped to develop new programs at foundations seeking to strengthen communities and public-interest media. Since 2011, he has directed Media Impact Funders, where he has been instrumental in building a network of funders who view communications as a vital part of working toward positive changes in society.
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Partnering to Amplify News from the Heartland

In this guest post, the Joyce Foundation’s Director of Communications Bill Strong explains how a new investment helps to support collaboration among local news outlets.

Joyce joins the McCormick Foundation in supporting INN’s Amplify News-Midwest, a news distribution, placement and partnership hub working to expand the reach and impact of news coverage from Midwestern communities. Briefly stated, the concept is to make it easier for many of the smaller state and local and regional nonprofit newsrooms supported by MIF members to share content and increase their visibility, both regionally and nationally.

While this idea of a technology-enhanced collaboration was hatched well before the 2016 presidential election, there’s greater national interest these days in news from the heartland.

“We are at a unique inflection point: the growing concentration of media on the East Coast is leaving news from the middle of the country thinly covered for national audiences,” says INN Executive Director and CEO Sue Cross. “At the same time, coverage of critical public affairs and regional issues increasingly comes from small, nonprofit newsrooms with specialized skills and local knowledge—newsrooms that may lack resources to widely share their news given the complexity of technology and distribution channels today. Amplify is designed to help span that gap.”

While this convergence of events makes the Midwest the ideal place to launch this pilot project, INN hopes if the concept proves out, the technology-enhanced collaboration can be replicated in other regions.

Amplify will launch in mid-June with one editor/director, based in Chicago—a job opening posted by INN in mid-May. When hired, the editor/director will recruit participants and establish relationships with regional and national media contacts and line up distribution channels. Amplify also will serve as a central point for large platforms, public media and other national media to connect with local outlets.

The group is seeking additional funding to strengthen tech systems that can facilitate sharing, such as use of distribution databases, media monitoring software, and improved content feed structures, metadata, and common archiving. These kinds of infrastructure improvements, says Cross, “can improve the effective reach of every story from participating newsrooms.”

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Foundations and media outlets can support a strong, independent press

Editor’s note: In early April, Vince Stehle, our executive director, moderated a panel discussion as part of the Center for Effective Philanthropy’s annual conference on how foundations and media outlets can work together to support a strong and independent press. Below is a transcript of journalist and media analyst Ellen Hume’s remarks at the panel.

By Ellen Hume | International Media Development Advisers

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Crossing the abyss

Grant Oliphant | President, The Heinz Endowments

A common aphorism has it that “one man with courage is a majority.” Most of us instinctively don’t believe that. Most of us think one man standing athwart the tide makes for a powerful photo but a predictably tragic ending.

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Foundations back film-and-activism campaigns to fight global warming

Editor’s note: Back in January, during a private gathering of documentary film funders at the Sundance Film Festival, we had the pleasure of hearing from filmmaker Jeff Orlowski, whose latest documentary Chasing Coral uses beautiful time-lapse imagery to document the world’s dying coral reefs. Orlowski shared details on his new film’s impact strategy, the importance of simplifying scientific data for the public, and more. During the meeting, Orlowski commented that the film was meant not for the hardcore climate skeptics but those who find themselves somewhere in the middle of the debate. And he added that it was important to consider who is delivering these messages of change: “If the messages came from the tree huggers, they aren’t as effective as when they come from the farmers, fishermen, and the non-tree huggers,” he said. We got to know the Sundance Discovery Impact fellow last year during an interview about his Emmy Award-winning Chasing Ice, which follows an acclaimed environmental photographer on a dangerous trek through the Arctic. Check out the Chasing Ice trailer, along with clips and excerpts from our discussion with Orlowski, here. Read more

Funding the First Amendment: The time for grantmaking is now

Editor’s note: Last month, we organized a call for journalism funders considering First Amendment support. The call was led by Eric Newton, Innovation Chief at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. We asked Newton—a journalist, historian, philanthropist and educator who has long championed free expression and freedom of information—to share his perspectives with our network.

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New guiding principles for funders of media

By Tim Isgitt | Managing director, Humanity United

I have a bias. I believe the service provided by responsible journalists is essential to keeping us all informed and engaged in our communities and the world around us. I am proud to play a role in supporting journalism. And in this time of immense social uncertainty, I believe the need for quality reporting, accurate storytelling and investigative journalism has never been greater.

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Read our most recent newsletters:

MIF Monthly newsletter: April 2017

Assessing Impact of Media (AIM) monthly newsletter: May/June 2017

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