This is the first in a series of conversations among journalism funders focused on media equity. Media Impact Funders is committed to elevating discussions on the current state of media equity, and what it will take to support marginalized media makers and the communities they represent. We will continue to shine a light on and share opportunities, challenges and best practices with our network of funders who support media in the public interest. See more on media equity.

Last month, we hosted a webinar about the ways in which journalists are engaging diverse communities while covering American politics—and what funders can do to build a more equitable media ecosystem.

“We’re living in an era where reconstructing the news is critically important, said Farai Chideya, a program officer with the Creativity and Free Expression team at the Ford Foundation. “I do believe that we are able to shape the future of media, which will help shape the future of democracy.”

We heard from Chideya and Jessica Clark, founder of Dot Connector Studio, about a new report that sums up lessons from two years of research into what it will take to support innovation in news equity.

The report, Reconstructing American News, lays argues for reframing the equity conversation around new people, new processes, new ways of reaching people, and new modes of storytelling.

“We’ve seen a lot of excitement in products and platforms … but we can’t just keeping using the same tools, the same models for journalism, the same approaches to try to address this long-running lack of diversity and inclusion in media,” Clark said.

We also heard from Darryl Holliday, co-founder and News Lab Director of the City Bureau, whose work focuses on prioritizing racial equity, not innovation. For example, the City Bureau’s Documenters program in Chicago trains people to take on the role of community reporter for the goal of monitoring local government “because we should all be guardians of justice, not just journalists.” That reporting is then made public, Hollidays says, and is an example of how innovation can lead to “a just accounting of our systems.”

Later in the webinar we heard from Mazin Sidahmed, co-founding editor/senior reporter of Documented, a New York-based outlet covering immigration. The outlet has “transformed overnight into a help desk
to respond to communities’ needs amid COVID-19. “We realized that what people really wanted was actionable information to help with their lives,” Sidahmed said.

When it comes to reporting on the upcoming election, Jon Funabiki, executive director of Renaissance Journalism, said that journalism needs to show how it’s moving from covering politics to engaging communities. “There’s a need for us to think of our funding and our work as not just recreating the past but actually reforming the practices that have been poor and inequitable,” said Funabiki, who has experience in the field as both a journalist and a funder.

He also shared details about the LaunchPad Report, which explores a few key challenges facing emerging journalists, especially journalists of color, today.

Watch the webinar:

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Media Impact Funders traces its roots back to the Council on Foundations, a longtime philanthropy-serving organization. Formerly Grantmakers in Film, Video & Television, MIF began on a volunteer basis in 1984 as an affinity group for funders interested in the power of film to highlight social issues. Reflecting changes in technology and media behavior over the past decade, it was renamed Grantmakers in Film & Electronic Media (GFEM) and formally incorporated in 2008 to advance the field of media arts and public interest media funding. It had 45 members and was headed by former MacArthur Foundation Program Officer Alyce Myatt. GFEM was renamed Media Impact Funders in 2012 and has since expanded its strategy to include a broad range media funding interests such as journalism, immersive technologies, media policy and more. Since that time, MIF has grown to more than 80 organizational members representing some of the largest foundations, and holds more than 40 in-person and online events yearly.