The recent violence in Charlottesville, Va., has thrust racist ideas into the national conversation in ways Americans haven’t experienced before. Of course, tensions around race relations in the U.S. have been steadily building over the past few years, with high-profile protests around police shootings and a resurgence in hate groups. Intolerance in the streets has mirrored a spike in divisive rhetoric online, where trolls “drown out the voices of women, ethnic and religious minorities, gays—anyone who might feel vulnerable,” observes Joel Stein in Time. But most disturbingly, these same sentiments can now be heard in the highest corridors of power.
Philanthropy is working to counter these forces. Grant Oliphant, the president of the Heinz Endowments, offered powerful remarks on the violence in Charlottesville and asserted our shared responsibility in overcoming these dark issues. “Call this beast what you will—whatever the politicians may say, it is not difficult to name. It is ethnic and racial hatred and bigotry. It is domestic terrorism, white supremacy, violent extremism. It is the damage in the human heart that looks for scapegoats and finds grim solace in the diminishment of others, holding them down, punishing them for wanting to share in the basic dignities we ourselves hold dear,” he writes.
Many funders recognize that reporting on intolerance is weakened by the persistent problem of lack of diversity in media outlets. ASNE’s 2016 Diversity Survey suggests that while newsroom numbers are improving after a long slump, the percentages of female and minority staff still don’t correspond with those of the population. Inclusion in sourcing is also a problem—for example, according to the Pew Research Center, whites are more likely than nonwhites to have spoken with or been interviewed by a local journalist. Across media, men still outnumber women, according to this 2017 report from the Women’s Media Center, and “at 20 of the nation’s most widely read and heard news outlets, women still report far less of the news than men report.”
Media funders are responding with grants to organizations that support diverse journalists and media producers. This week, the MacArthur Foundation announced $5.7 million in grants to support seven organizations that serve documentary media makers from historically underrepresented backgrounds. The Knight Foundation recently gave the Ida B. Wells Society $150,000 to expand training programs for journalists of color. With support from the Dodge Foundation, researcher Sabrina Hersi Issa examined how newsrooms can strengthen their tracking of diversity, noting that the collapse of journalism’s business model has led to a corresponding collapse of previous tracking infrastructure, and suggesting strategies for rebuilding.
While these investments are promising, according to 2009-2016 data from our media funding map, Foundation Maps for Media Funding, they follow a dip in grants to organizations and outlets that address issues of gender and race in journalism, news and information (see graphic above or download a related PDF here). (Foundation Maps for Media Funding was developed by the Foundation Center.)
The map offers useful context for funders seeking to take a fresh look at their own strategy, or to see what other funders have supported. According to the map, top funders in this space include the Ford Foundation, The California Endowment, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Foundation to Promote Open Society, and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.
To learn more about philanthropic investments in media and diversity, see our related verticals on race and ethnicity, women and girls, and LGBTQ issues. To share your own funding strategies around inclusion and equity in media, email Media Impact Funders’ Communications Director Nina Sachdev Hoffmann at firstname.lastname@example.org.