October 2020—
12:00 pm—5:00 pm

Online conference

This is a funder-only gathering.

J-Funders, our annual gathering of journalism funders, provides an important opportunity to strengthen connections and discuss new ideas and collaborations. In an effort to expand and strengthen the field, MIF is committed to giving funders the time and space to discuss the most pressing issues facing journalism today. As such, our format this year is a mix of plenary discussions and small breakout groups.

Scroll down to register.

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, visit the event and click the login button in the top right. Enter your email, you’ll get a message that says we didn’t find any existing user with the email you entered. Continue to sign up by entering your first and last name and password. Then click on join an event and enter the event code: JFunder2020. This will give you full access.

If you are still having trouble, please contact operations@mediafunders.org for assistance.

Agenda for Tuesday, Oct. 6 | Noon-5 p.m. ET

Noon—Welcome & J-Funders Overview    

12:05 p.m.—Rising to the Challenge: Funders’ Collaborative Responses to COVID-19

COVID-19 has laid bare the critical need for access to accurate, evidence-based public health information. To keep the public informed during this uncertain time, newsrooms around the country have prioritized pandemic coverage—even in the face of intensified financial struggles—but it has not been easy. The ever-changing nature of COVID-19 data, combined with misinformation and disinformation coming from the highest levels of government, has created additional challenges for journalists and researchers.

Rita Allen Foundation President Elizabeth Christopherson* will moderate a discussion on media philanthropy’s response to COVID-19, with a special focus on the continued importance of collaboration among funders in this network. We’ll hear from several funders about a broad range of projects that maximized the impact of this critical work.  

  • David Rousseau*, Vice President of Media and Technology at the Kaiser Family Foundation, will present a project called Lost on the Frontline, a collection of stories of medical professionals who died from COVID-19. The project was supported by Good Words Foundation, a relatively new member of MIF, and published in collaboration with The Guardian
  • Karen Rundlet, Director of Journalism at the Knight Foundation, will highlight a broad range of COVID-related efforts being supported by funders around the nation since the beginning of the pandemic. 
  • Kaitlin Yarnall*, Chief Storytelling Officer and Senior Vice President at the National Geographic Society, will share details about a new collaborative fund housed at National Geographic that supports journalists covering COVID-19 in local communities.  

1-1:30 p.m.—Break  

1:30 p.m.—Concurrent sessions   (choose from 3 different tracks)

  • International journalism: Calling all international journalism funders! Join Liz Baker, Senior Manager of the Independent Journalism & Media program at Humanity United, as she facilitates a session about several key initiatives happening in the international journalism space.  Be sure to come prepared to share your work. We’ll start off by hearing from Rasmus Klaus Nielsen, Director of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, about their latest work. Alex Jakana*, Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will share findings from a special report that Gates commissioned on women’s underrepresentation in COVID-19 newsgathering and news coverage in India, Kenya, South Africa, the U.K. and the U.S. 
  • Community foundations: Community foundations are making significant contributions to reverse troubling trends in journalism and reconnect local communities with the information they need to thrive. In a new report, MIF offers a data snapshot about the scope of community foundations in the U.S. from 2009-2019 in the hopes that it will catalyze conversations to better understand the role community foundations are playing in supporting journalism, especially at the local level. MIF Communications Director Nina Sachdev will present the top-level findings from the report, and then we’ll turn it over to Mauricio Palma, Director of Initiatives and Special Projects at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, to reflect on the findings and lead the group in discussion. We want to hear from our community foundation colleagues about your media grantmaking, including strategies and lessons learned. Our hope is to provide space for community foundations to share knowledge and learn from one another. We encourage you to come prepared to talk about your work. 
  • Experienced grantmakers: This is a new track for all you experienced grantmakers out there. Given all that has occurred in the last six months—our country’s struggle with the pandemic, racial justice and the impact of climate change—grantmakers have been called upon to shift the way they work. Philanthropic organizations traditionally focus on long-term strategies of change making, but the confluence of these national and global crises are prompting some funders to recalibrate their long-term strategies to be more responsive to the moment. How are funders weighing and navigating the dual imperatives of long-term change and short-term need? Join us to reflect and discuss as a group how we are contending with this issue.  Andres Torres, Program Officer at the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and Paul Cheung, Director of Journalism and Technology Innovation at the Knight Foundation will facilitate an open dialogue, allowing you to hear from colleagues and share your experiences. 

 3-3:30 p.m. —Break 

3:30 p.m.—Advancing a Culture of Equity in Newsrooms  

Women and people of color are not finding what they need in newsrooms across America. The reasons are varied, but a lot stem from issues with newsroom culture: inflexible schedules, sexual harassment, the lack of professional development, the lack of leadership tracks for women and people of color, and more. It’s time for us to ask ourselves what it would take for America’s newsrooms to be truly equitable. What would it look like? For one, we’d have a place where women, people of color and indigenous communities would be fairly represented. We’d also have systems and structures in place to allow for growth into leadership positions. This would create the right conditions for newsrooms to report information that affects all communities.  

Moderated by Kayce Ataiyero, Managing Director of the Joyce Foundation, this conversation will focus on the future of newsroom culture, where we envision a workplace in which journalists can work together without fear of harassment or abuse of power, have more flexible schedules and leadership tracks for all. We will hear from four incredible leaders at organizations committed to more equitable newsrooms:   

  • Evelyn Hsu, Co-Executive Director of the Robert C. Maynard Institute, who will talk about Maynard Institute’s Equity and Inclusion Transformation program, an in-depth initiative for news organizations to help them better inform underserved communities and establish more equitable and inclusive workplaces; 
  • Carolyn McGourty Supple, Executive Director of The Press Forward, an independent initiative whose mission is to advance culture in the news industry through training, research and education; 
  • Tracie Powell, Program Officer at Borealis Philanthropy, who will speak to the Racial Equity in Journalism Fund, which seeks to strengthen the capacity and sustainability of news organizations led by people of color and partners in equity to increase civic engagement for communities of color; and 
  • Andrea Valdez, Editor in Chief at The 19th News, a newsroom that reflects racial, ideological, socioeconomic and gender diversity of American voters.

4:50-5p.m.—Wrap-up & Close

Agenda for Wednesday, Oct. 7 | Noon-5 p.m. ET

Noon-1 p.m.: Supporting Healthy Information Flows in a Critical Election Year

These days, it’s easy to be misled and hard to know what information to trust. BIPOC communities in particular are being heavily targeted by disinformation efforts and even further affected by hate content online. As we head into the final days before the most consequential election of our lifetimes, we’re going to examine how journalism funders are supporting healthy information flows to communities so people are empowered with the knowledge, understanding and tools they need to make sound decisions—and what more can be done. 

Moderated by Sam Gill, Senior Vice President and chief program officer of the Knight Foundation, join us as we hear from: 

  • Kelly Born, Executive Director of the Cyber Policy Center at Stanford University, who will offer an overview of the challenges we are facing with misinformation and disinformation as we head into the elections this year.  
  • Steven Renderos, Executive Director of MediaJustice, a national grassroots leader advancing racial, economic, and gender justice in a digital age by fighting for just and participatory platforms for expression. MediaJustice is the host of a network of over 103 racial justice, arts and media organizations. He will share how they are advising their local community members to defend against disinformation targeting BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) communities.
  • Claire Wardle, Co-Founder and U.S. Director of First Draft News, an organization committed to protecting communities from harmful misinformation, who will share the ways they are supporting journalists in counteracting the threats this election season.  

1-1:30 p.m.—Break  

1:30 p.m.—Concurrent sessions   (choose from 4 different tracks)

  • International journalism : Join your colleague Alex Jakana*, Program Officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, as he facilitates a discussion of matters specific to global funding. Our goal is to create a space for international journalism funders to learn from, engage and share with one another. Our hope is that you’ll build a network of colleagues that you can call on, and work together to deepen your commitment to international journalism. Come to the session to explore collaborative ventures together, through joint projects or thought partnerships.

  • Local journalism: Doug Root*, Vice President of Communications at the Pittsburgh Foundation, and MIF’s Director of Development & Member Engagement Courtney Eshleman will facilitate a discussion with funders who care about local journalism issues. We’ll have candid discussions on the lack of information flows that some local communities face and talk about how we might grow the “philanthropic pie” for local news.

  • Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) : Jon Funabiki, Executive Director of Renaissance Journalism, will facilitate a discussion on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion. This session is intended to be an open forum for funders to talk about various projects and initiatives they are working on. Lea Trusty, Program Associate at the Democracy Fund, will start us off by sharing details about a new project of the Democracy Fund called the Engaged Journalism Lab, an online collection of resources centered on building trusted, inclusive and audience-driven journalism. We’ll also hear from Jennifer Choi, Director of Equity Initiatives at the News Integrity Initiative, about a new report summarizing the key takeaways from a meeting of foundation leaders about how to center DEI at the core of philanthropic work.  Join us and be ready to share your work.

  • Experienced grantmakers: Here’s another session for all you experienced grantmakers. Building off of the first day’s conversation, Teresa Gorman, Senior Program Associate for local news at the Democracy Fund, and Lauren Pabst, Senior Program Officer of Journalism and Media at the MacArthur Foundation, will facilitate a discussion on what’s next when it comes to your media strategy.  Where do we go from here? Hear from your colleagues and be prepared to share your thoughts and experience.

3-3:30 p.m.—Break

3:30 p.m.—Media’s Inflection Point: Making the Changes We Need Now for the Future We Want Later 

It’s been more than 50 years since the Kerner Commission pointed to institutional racism as the root cause of urban violence in the 1960s. And yet here we are, more than 50 years later, facing similar uprisings to challenge the same culturally embedded forms of racial discrimination: a terribly flawed justice system, bad policing practices, inadequate housing, high unemployment, voter suppression, and so much more.   

What do we have to do this time so that history doesn’t repeat itself? What do we have to do to ensure that 2070 looks drastically different than today?   

In philanthropy, we are starting to see substantial commitments from grantmakers to black-led organizations at the center of transformative change. We’ll hear from Crystal Hayling, Executive Director of the Libra Foundation, who has enlisted forward-thinking philanthropic partners to launch the Democracy Frontlines Fund.   

In journalism, Free Press launched its Media 2070 project, an in-depth essay and organizing hub intended to gather diverse voices in journalism to answer questions around the specific types of injustices that diverse communities have suffered, and what those harmful experiences actually look like. Alicia Bell, Organizing Manager at Free Press, will share details about this work. 

In media, Kamal Sinclair, Executive Director of the Guild of Future Architects, asserts that the stories we consume have an enormous impact on our perception of reality. As such, we need to achieve what we haven’t yet been able to: fair and equitable representation of the world’s stories and images. Kamal’s Making a New Reality toolkit, shows us why we need to future-proof our media ecosystem by ensuring inclusive and equitable practices in emerging media platforms.  

Join us as we explore how philanthropy, as an important component of the media ecosystem, can work to make journalism and media a place for and by everyone—now and in the future.

4:50-5 p.m.—Wrap-Up & Next Steps   

*Member of Media Impact Funders’ Board of Directors

Many thanks to the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation and Independence Public Media Foundation for sponsoring this event. Special thanks to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Henry L. Hillman Foundation, and the Rita Allen Foundation for their support.

Are you a J-Funders first-timer? Learn more about our Journalism Funders Network.