News from the Field

Updated Journalism and Media Grantmaking guide offers insights for funders new to the field

Over the past year, we’ve seen a notable uptick in interest among funders about the role they can play in supporting news and community information. To meet this need, we are pleased to share a newly updated version of Journalism and Media Grantmaking: Five Things You Need to Know and Five Ways to Get Started, produced with support from the Wyncote Foundation.

This booklet is a starter guide for foundations interested in exploring how to make impactful journalism and community-information grants. Foundations do not need to have a formal journalism program to make grants that support healthy news and information flows. Nor does a foundation need large dollar investments to get started. Even a small grant may help citizens in a given community or demographic gain access to credible information that will help them participate in civic life.

Journalist and consultant Michele McLellan co-wrote the original version of the booklet, produced in 2011 with support from the John S. and James L.  Knight and William Penn foundations. Now, she offers an expanded analysis of how the field has changed, informed by insights from a distinguished group of media funders who offered hard-earned lessons from their own practice.

“There are many more instructive examples from the grantmaking field, as well as a wider range of resources for nonprofit journalism that can be tapped,” observes Wyncote Foundation Vice Chair David Haas in the foreword to the booklet. “We also have the benefit now of learning from unsuccessful initiatives and from the ongoing challenges of organizational and mission sustainability that news organizations face.”

The booklet provides dozens of examples of successful journalism and media projects that have received philanthropic support, along with highlights of interviews with program staff. It is divided into two main parts: Five things you need to know, and five ways to get started.

Funders offer various observations, such as:

  • The importance of supporting news literacy. “[News literacy] is something people don’t know they need until they see it in action—and then they can’t believe they haven’t moved on it earlier,” says Tobi Printz-Platnick, Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation.
  • Engaging in more meaningful ways with the communities they serve. “If you want to be relevant, you have to go out there and listen,” says Jennifer Choi, associate director for strategic partnerships at the News Integrity Initiative. “The effort is so worth it.”
  • Maintaining editorial independence and transparency. “The work of the funders is to identify smart, innovative and ethical newsroom leaders and then trust them to do the right thing,” say Kathy Im and Peter Slevin of the MacArthur Foundation.

The booklet also underscores that funders don’t have to go it alone. Getting to know peers with similar goals can help answer many questions about how to proceed. Media Impact Funders, the publisher of this booklet, advises grantmakers interested in using media to further their missions, offers a database of grantmaking for media, and connects funders and allies who support media.

“Across America, funders are increasingly concerned about the vitality of journalism as a bulwark for our democracy,” says Vince Stehle, executive director of Media Impact Funders.

Journalism funders connect through an annual meeting and regular conference calls to explore issues in the field. To learn more about joining this network, send an email to journalism@mediafunders.org.

Read the booklet below or download it here: