New Research Spotlight
Philanthropy’s growing role in American journalism: A new study reveals increased funding and ethical considerations
A new study conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago in partnership with Media Impact Funders and The Lenfest Institute for Journalism that examines the role of philanthropy in American journalism found strong growth in support for nonprofit news over the past five years, an increase in funding to for-profit newsrooms, and a growing focus on communities of color.
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Philanthropy’s growing role in American journalism: A new study reveals increased funding and ethical considerations

How are funders evaluating the outcomes of the media productions and campaigns that they support? Over the past five years, this question has informed a growing array of convenings, reports and research initiatives within the philanthropic sector, driving the emergence of a small but increasingly visible field of analysts and producers seeking to both quantify and qualify the impact of public interest media.

These examinations have stimulated debate among both funders and grantees. Calls for the creation of a single media impact metric or tool have been met with both curiosity and skepticism. Those in favor of impact analysis cite its strategic usefulness in this moment of myriad new and untested media platforms, the importance of concretely tying mission to outcomes, and the need to justify media investments rather than programmatic ones. Detractors raise concerns about how an excess of evaluation might stifle creativity, needlessly limit funding to those projects whose short-term impact can be conclusively proven, or simply bog grantees down in administrative tasks that require entirely different skills, as well as resources.

However, these debates have taken place in somewhat of an information vacuum. To date, the conversation about media impact has been led by a limited group of foundations. Little substantive information is available about how a broader range of funders address questions of evaluation. This research project aims to help fill that gap.

This report explores the multiple and sometimes overlapping lenses through which grantmakers view media evaluation, and confirms that there are still many unanswered questions.

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IssueLab, a service of the Foundation Center, is a searchable, curated collection of reports that provide users with a deep dive into social issues. Our collection is dedicated to research on media and journalism trends, analyses, case studies and more.

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