The nonprofit news sector is having a really great year: Two beloved hometown newspapers on the brink of collapse were saved by a new nonprofit in January. Pulitzers were awarded for exceptional reporting in April. A new watchdog-focused outlet joined the fold this month. And this week, two sizable grants from two foundations known for their commitment to and preservation of journalism and media were announced.
The MacArthur Foundation will make nearly $25 million in unrestricted, five-year general operating grants to a select group of outlets, including NPR, Mother Jones and the Center for Investigative Reporting, that focus on accountability and explanatory reporting. At a time when the ethics of grantmaking is under more scrutiny, unrestricted grants preserve the independence of journalists and their organizations.
MacArthur President Julia Stasch announced the grants at PBS’ annual conference in Chicago:
— MacArthur Foundation (@macfound) May 18, 2016
Even Twitter was happy:
— Steve Katz (@Steve_Katz) May 18, 2016
Also this week, the Knight Foundation, in conjunction with Columbia University, announced a $60 million effort to preserve and expand First Amendment rights in the digital age. The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University will focus on research, education and supporting litigation in favor of protecting freedom of expression and the press.
The announcement comes on the heels of a recent Knight poll that revealed what many newsroom editors really think of pursuing of legal cases around free speech: that the news industry is less able to do so today than it was 10 years ago, and that too many questions about the digital age remain unanswered.
“It’s not broadcast,” Knight Foundation President and CEO Alberto Ibargüen told Poynter. “It’s not print. It’s not individual speech. It’s the internet. And it’s not something that we only use for speech, it’s something we use for just about everything.”