October 2021—
9:00 am—5:00 pm

Virtual Conference

Wednesday: Noon-5 p.m. ET
Thursday: Noon-5 p.m. ET
This is a funder-only gathering.

Keeping the health and safety of our network in mind, and given the sharp rise in cases of the COVID-19 Delta variant, our 2021 Journalism Funders Gathering will now take place virtually on Oct. 13-14. We’ll focus on the “big questions” facing journalism, and the agenda will feature plenty of networking and participant-led discussions.

Our conference platform: Swapcard

For this gathering, we’ll be using Swapcard as our conference platform. You’ll find everything you need in this application, from the agenda and attendees, to the zoom links for the concurrent session.

You can access the event via your browser by using the login button in the top right and entering your email address. You will need to use the email address used to register for the gathering.

If Swapcard doesn’t recognize your email for some reason, and you registered for the event, please contact operations@mediafunders.org.


Wednesday, Oct. 13 | Noon-5 p.m. ET

Plenary Discussion
12:05 p.m.—Finding opportunity in crisis: Refining our priorities and caring for each other in order to revive local news

Over the years, we’ve tracked and reported on the encouraging increase in philanthropic giving to journalism. Philanthropy has continued to step up in innovative ways to provide critical support amid mounting financial pressures for local news—especially within the last year due to the ongoing pandemic. But despite these efforts to build and sustain healthy news ecosystems in communities across the country, local news is too often still failing to serve those communities.   

As a community of funders, we know we can’t fix everything and, in many ways, we don’t have to. While the changing ecosystem has often been lamented as a collapse, we’re hopeful: local news is reinventing and reimagining itself in new ways. And as more funders invest in local journalism, it’s important that we continue to align our strategies to impact a field that’s navigating woeful inequities, threats from Big Tech and waves of disinformation. While each of our foundations have different strategies and approaches, how do we re-examine power and redefine resources—and value—to create media that communities need?   

Most importantly, how do we care for everyone—our grantees, partners, communities and one another—during that reexamination? 

We’ll start the session with award-winning spoken word poet, speaker and storyteller Hannah Hasan to ground our discussion and then we’ll dive into strategies with our panel of experts and hear how funders can help innovate through the current journalism crisis.  


  • Jennifer Brandel, co-founder, Zebras Unite  
  • Jean Friedman-Rudovsky, Co-Executive Director, Resolve Philly  
  • Hannah Hasan, spoken word poet, speaker and storyteller 
  • Silvia Rivera, Business Strategist, Listening Post Collective 
  • Roxann Stafford, Managing Director, Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund
  • Anita Zielina, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism 
1:30 p.m.—Break /Intermission Spotlight

Recording available: Richard Tofel, ProPublica’s recently retired founding general manager and president since 2013, and Sarah Alvarez, Founder and Editor of Outlier Media—a Detroit-based service journalism organization—discuss the challenges and lessons learned in bolstering local news.

2 p.m.—Concurrent small group discussion  

Community Foundations huddle 

Disinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 presidential election and other critical  public interest issues have laid bare the urgent need for more philanthropic support of high- quality journalism, especially at the local level. Join your peers in a conversation about  challenges that are specific to community foundations and how place-based foundations can  effect true change.

  • Facilitator: Doug Root, The Pittsburgh Foundation

International Journalism Funders huddle 

International journalism funders, connect with your peers to discuss two subjects relevant to  current events. 

Intermediary funding organizations:Understanding their value to local communities globally, the challenges they face, how we can support them, and the benefits of doing so. 
Co-funding: There’s a consensus that collaboration between two or more funders on a grant can be beneficial. We will discuss the practical steps we can take to simplify the process.  

  • Facilitators: Liz Baker, Humanity United and Alex Jakana, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation 

MIF’s DEI taskforce efforts   

At MIF, we know DEI isn’t not about checking off boxes; DEI should be embedded in our very  DNA. We also know we don’t have all the answers. That’s why we’re designing this listening  session to inform our strategy to advance equity. Quite frankly, we need to hear and learn from  you: what should we be doing? Where are we falling short? And how can we help you support  DEI?  

  • Facilitator: Andres Torres, Robert R. McCormick Foundation

3:15 p.m.—Break / Intermission Spotlight

Recording available: “Storm Lake” is an acclaimed new documentary about a Pulitzer Prize-winning, family-owned Iowa newspaper struggling to survive and continue serving its town. Megan Gelstein of Catapult Film Fund interviews filmmakers Jerry Risisus and Beth Leviso about the inspiration behind the film and their intended impact. 

Plenary Discussion
3:45 p.m.—Rebuilding journalism by centering racial equity at its core

We’re at a critical juncture in our democracy and yet our media does not reflect the nation it serves. As we think about building and sustaining journalism in this time of great upheaval and uncertainty, we must seize the opportunity to address and dismantle racial inequities that have plagued the industry since its inception. Who is in the newsroom matters. And journalism, along with philanthropy, has long failed to adequately serve BIPOC communities. So, let’s rebuild journalism the right way this time. In this session, we’ll hear from funders and media practitioners who are leading the charge to make the industry more inclusive and equitable. 


  • Lolly Bowean, Media and Storytelling Portfolio Manager, The Field Foundation  
  • Sandra Clark, Vice President for News and Dialogue, WHYY 
  • Malkia Devich-Cyril, Founder, MediaJustice  
  • Molly DeAguiar, President, Independent Public Media Foundation 
  • Adeshina Emmanuel, Editor, Injustice Watch 
5 p.m.—Close

Thursday, Oct. 14 | Noon-5 p.m. ET

Noon—Agenda setting
Plenary discussion
12:15 p.m.—Counteracting Misinformation and Disinformation from Digital Platforms

Over the past few years, the spread of misinformation and disinformation has exploded throughout society, undermining sound civic decision-making around the most urgent issues. Even as we hear last-chance warnings of the catastrophic impacts of climate change and global warming, climate denial is widespread and persistent. In the face of a deadly pandemic, anti-vaccine hysteria and COVID-19 denial is hampering effective public health policies to rein in the disease. And politically motivated propaganda is fueling a “big lie” of electoral fraud and stolen elections, undermining faith in our democratic systems.     

We’ll hear from Shorenstein Center’s research director Joan Donovan who will lay out the breadth and nature of the problem. Then we’ll examine several examples of how journalism organizations and funders are working to advance healthy information flows to communities so people are empowered with the knowledge, understanding and tools they need to make healthy and sound decisions.  


  • Joan Donovan, Research Director, Harvard Kennedy’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy
  • Lauren Williams, Co-Founder & CEO, Capital B  
  • Estelle Willie, Director, Health Policy & Communications, The Rockefeller Foundation 
  • Emma Ruby Sachs, Executive Director, Sum of Us   
1:30 p.m.—Break / Intermission Spotlight

Recording available: The National Geographic Society’s Kaitlin Yarnall interviews Jim Brady, the incoming VP of Journalism at the Knight Foundation, on how to build a future for journalism that is sustainable. 

2 p.m.—Concurrent small group discussion

Lessons learned from coordinated approaches to funding local journalism  

Indeed, it takes a village. So why work in silos to save local news, one of the most pressing issues of our time? This isn’t a panel, but a conversation: Join your peers in hearing about their experiences, successes, lessons learned, and challenges in their efforts to build a coordinated approach to funding local journalism in their region. Come to the session to share your questions, thoughts and experiences.  

  • Discussants: Melissa Davis, Gates Family Foundation/Colorado Media Project, Lizzy Hazeltine, NC Local News Lab Fund, Moky Makura, Africa Filter and Tyler Tokarczyk, Inasmuch Foundation

Movement Journalism 101

It is clear that what is needed now more than ever is community-focused, solutions-based reporting. That’s at very core of “movement journalism.” Movement journalism is not a new framework, nor — notes its leading practitioners—is it a silver bullet solution to all of journalism’s problems and inequities. But it is anchored by a set of commitments that in its very essence should represent the ideals of journalism: To center the voices and experiences of systematically oppressed people, to amplify the work of social movements, and to expose and investigate root causes of oppression. Movement journalism can make “mainstream” journalism feel uncomfortable, for it “requires unlearning transactional and extractive practices and doing away with the myth of objectivity.” In this session we’ll discuss how movement journalism meets the needs of communities directly affected by injustice by fostering collaboration between journalists and grassroots change-makers, and supporting stories created by marginalized people.

  • Discussants: Clarissa Brooks, JustMedia, Nuala Cabral, Independence Public Media Foundation, Manolia Charlotin, Press On, and Christine Schmidt, Democracy Fund

Meet the Local Journalism Sustainability Act: A federal lifeline for local news?  

For the first time in over 50 years, the federal legislature is deciding whether it will pass a bill to support local media. It has largely been praised as thoughtful way to offer financial support to newsrooms without bringing them under government control, though critics say the legislation’s emphasis on a subscription-based model and tax credits for advertisers limit assistance to many outlets that serve communities of color. Come talk with your peers about how this new legislation will impact the organizations you support and effect the field of journalism as a whole. In the next and final plenary, we’ll hear about several policy initiatives—including the LJSA—though in this small group discussion, you’ll get a chance to dive deeper into how this legislative proposal of major new funds could change the game of local journalism. 

  • Facilitator: David Rousseau, Kaiser Family Foundation
3:15 p.m.—Break / Intermission Spotlight

Recording available: The gripping PBS documentary series “Philly D.A.” tracks the reform efforts of Larry Krasner, a civil rights lawyer turned district attorney in Philadelphia. We talk to the filmmakers about their vérité-style account of one man’s takeover of an institution that he had been fighting for over 30 years.

Plenary discussion
3:45 p.m.—
Public Policy Opportunities to Strengthen Journalism

It is becoming increasingly clear that community information is a public good that needs to be nurtured and preserved. The ongoing crisis in local journalism is sparking new calls for public policy solutions that will provide public dollars for community media outlets. There are interesting new funds and initiatives taking root at the local and state levels. And, for the first time in many years, a major infusion of new funds for journalism is being proposed at the federal level. But the legislation being considered legislation may leave out BIPOC-led community news media outlets, exacerbating an already inequitable media eco-system. Our speakers—those fearlessly leading that push—will describe new solutions in states and communities and offer guidance on developments coming out of Washington. Combined, these public policy efforts will have significant implications for funders and media outlets across the country.  


  • David Morgan, Co-founder and President, Multicultural Media Correspondents Association  
  • Graciela Mochkofsky, Director of the Bilingual Journalism Program & Executive Director of the Center for Community Media at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism  
  • Victor Pickard, Professor of Media Policy and Political Economy at the Annenberg School for Communications, University of Pennsylvania  
  • Julie Sandorf, President, Revson Foundation  
  • Joseph Torres, Senior Director of Strategy and Engagement, Free Press 
  • Steve Waldman, founder and chair, Rebuild Local News Coalition  
5 p.m.—Close



This annual gathering provides an important opportunity to strengthen connections among journalism funders and to provide opportunities for funders to discuss their work and share ideas with one another.


We know that funders rely on the expertise of other funders. This meeting will help you make connections to peers who are eager to share best practices and lessons learned. By taking a broad view across the field of media funding to include many different types of platforms, issues and philanthropic goals, we are uniquely able to bring funders together around specific topics, connect funders and media makers who might not otherwise cross paths, and in the process, expand the field of journalism funding.


For those who purchased an in-person ticket, we will reach out to you individually and refund you the difference.

After undergoing a year-long strategic planning process to help us better serve the growing fields of media and philanthropy, we have decided to implement a member and non-member fee.

Members (virtual): $100
Non-members (virtual): $150


MIF’s Journalism Funders Network is a strong and active network of MIF and comprises a diverse constellation of philanthropic organizations. Through convenings, original research reports and field-building activities, we aim to strengthen connections among journalism funders and offer them opportunities to discuss their work among peers. Learn more.


Generous sponsorship comes from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Lenfest Institute, the Lumina Foundation and Facebook Journalism Project. If you are interested in providing sponsorship, email Courtney Eshleman, MIF’s director of development & member engagement, at courtney@mediafunders.org.