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The 2021 Media Impact Forum
Session 3 is Wednesday, April 21
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Last week, we convened our peers for our annual journalism funders gathering to discuss some of the most pressing issues facing journalism—and our nation—today. We hope that our two days of programming and breakout sessions introduced you to new people, new ideas, and a new way forward.

We are so grateful to the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation and Independence Public Media Foundation for sponsoring our first online journalism funders conference. (And special thanks to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Henry L. Hillman Foundation, and the Rita Allen Foundation for their support.) Zoom fatigue is real, and we are that much more grateful for the network’s participation our virtual format. We also know that many of you are juggling work and other family responsibilities, whether it’s your kids’ remote learning or caring for a loved one. Because of that, we’ve recorded all of our plenary discussions so that you can watch them at a time that’s more convenient for you. As we grapple with seemingly growing efforts to spread lies online, persistent issues preventing the advancement of newsroom culture, and what we need to do now to ensure a more equitable media ecosystem in the future, we hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen to what some of our speakers had to say.

If you joined the gathering, we’d love to hear your feedback. Fill out the survey.


Plenary 1
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.

Plenary 2
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.

Plenary 3
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.

Plenary 4
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.


Did you attend the breakout sessions? An MIF staff member will be sending a you a link to the recording of the sessions you attended. Stay tuned.

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Media Impact Funders

Media Impact Funders

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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.