Our annual meeting of journalism funders has come to a close, but the work is far from over (Here’s looking at you, anti-disinformation defenders and news equity warriors).

We know the challenges facing journalism are heady—and at times overwhelming—though we hope our speakers inspired you to meet these times with a sense of innovation and hope. And, perhaps most importantly, a renewed mandate to “get it right”: to rebuild journalism with equity at its core; to rebuild journalism that truly serves communities and ultimately democracy.

We hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen to what some of our speakers had to say. We’ll be continuing these conversations throughout the year through regular check-ins and programming with the Journalism Funders Network. As spoken word poet Hannah Hassan reminded, truly being “in community” means being there for each other when times are both good and, well, less than good, and we’re thankful for you, our MIF community.

If you joined the gathering, let us know how we did by filling out this 5 minute survey.

Plenary Discussion

Finding opportunity in crisis: Refining our priorities and caring for each other in order to revive local news

Over the years, we’ve tracked and reported on the encouraging increase in philanthropic giving to journalism. Philanthropy has continued to step up in innovative ways to provide critical support amid mounting financial pressures for local news—especially within the last year due to the ongoing pandemic. But despite these efforts to build and sustain healthy news ecosystems in communities across the country, local news is too often still failing to serve those communities.   

As a community of funders, we know we can’t fix everything and, in many ways, we don’t have to. While the changing ecosystem has often been lamented as a collapse, we’re hopeful: local news is reinventing and reimagining itself in new ways. And as more funders invest in local journalism, it’s important that we continue to align our strategies to impact a field that’s navigating woeful inequities, threats from Big Tech and waves of disinformation. While each of our foundations have different strategies and approaches, how do we re-examine power and redefine resources—and value—to create media that communities need?   

Most importantly, how do we care for everyone—our grantees, partners, communities and one another—during that reexamination? 

We started the session with award-winning spoken word poet, speaker and storyteller Hannah Hasan to ground our discussion and then we dove into strategies with our panel of experts and heard how funders can help innovate through the current journalism crisis.  

  • Jennifer Brandel, co-founder, Zebras Unite  
  • Jean Friedman-Rudovsky, Co-Executive Director, Resolve Philly  
  • Hannah Hasan, spoken word poet, speaker and storyteller 
  • Silvia Rivera, Business Strategist, Listening Post Collective 
  • Roxann Stafford, Managing Director, Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund
  • Anita Zielina, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism 

Plenary Discussion

Rebuilding journalism by centering racial equity at its core

We’re at a critical juncture in our democracy and yet our media does not reflect the nation it serves. As we think about building and sustaining journalism in this time of great upheaval and uncertainty, we must seize the opportunity to address and dismantle racial inequities that have plagued the industry since its inception. Who is in the newsroom matters. And journalism, along with philanthropy, has long failed to adequately serve BIPOC communities. So, let’s rebuild journalism the right way this time. In this session, we heard from funders and media practitioners who are leading the charge to make the industry more inclusive and equitable.


Lolly Bowean, Media and Storytelling Portfolio Manager, The Field Foundation
Sandra Clark, Vice President for News and Dialogue, WHYY
Malkia Devich-Cyril, Founder, MediaJustice
Molly de Aguiar, President, Independent Public Media Foundation
Adeshina Emmanuel, Editor, Injustice Watch

Plenary Discussion

Counteracting Misinformation and Disinformation from Digital Platforms

Over the past few years, the spread of misinformation and disinformation has exploded throughout society, undermining sound civic decision-making around the most urgent issues. Even as we hear last-chance warnings of the catastrophic impacts of climate change and global warming, climate denial is widespread and persistent. In the face of a deadly pandemic, anti-vaccine hysteria and COVID-19 denial is hampering effective public health policies to rein in the disease. And politically motivated propaganda is fueling a “big lie” of electoral fraud and stolen elections, undermining faith in our democratic systems.

We heard from Shorenstein Center’s research director Joan Donovan who will laid out the breadth and nature of the problem. Then we examined several examples of how journalism organizations and funders are working to advance healthy information flows to communities so people are empowered with the knowledge, understanding and tools they need to make healthy and sound decisions.


Joan Donovan, Research Director, Harvard Kennedy’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy
Lauren Williams, Co-Founder & CEO, Capital B
Estelle Willie, Director, Health Policy & Communications, The Rockefeller Foundation
Emma Ruby Sachs, Executive Director, Sum of Us

Plenary Discussion

Public Policy Opportunities to Strengthen Journalism

It is becoming increasingly clear that community information is a public good that needs to be nurtured and preserved. The ongoing crisis in local journalism is sparking new calls for public policy solutions that will provide public dollars for community media outlets. There are interesting new funds and initiatives taking root at the local and state levels. And, for the first time in many years, a major infusion of new funds for journalism is being proposed at the federal level. But the legislation being considered legislation may leave out BIPOC-led community news media outlets, exacerbating an already inequitable media eco-system. Our speakers—those fearlessly leading that push—described new solutions in states and communities and offered guidance on developments coming out of Washington. Combined, these public policy efforts will have significant implications for funders and media outlets across the country.

  • Graciela Mochkofsky, Director of the Bilingual Journalism Program & Executive Director of the Center for Community Media at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism
  • David Morgan, Co-founder and President, Multicultural Media Correspondents Association
  • Victor Pickard, Professor of Media Policy and Political Economy at the Annenberg School for Communications, University of Pennsylvania
  • Julie Sandorf, President, Revson Foundation
  • Joseph Torres, Senior Director of Strategy and Engagement, Free Press
  • Steve Waldman, founder and chair, Rebuild Local News Coalition

Interstitials spotlights

During the breaks, we shared pre-recorded conversations with leaders in the field.  Don’t miss them.

Spotlight – Sarah Alvarez and Richard Tofel

Richard Tofel, ProPublica’s recently retired founding general manager and president since 2013, and Sarah Alvarez, Founder and Editor of Outlier Media—a Detroit-based service journalism organization—discuss the challenges and lessons learned in bolstering local news.

Spotlight – Storm Lake Documentary

“Storm Lake” is an acclaimed new documentary about a Pulitzer Prize-winning, family-owned Iowa newspaper struggling to survive and continue serving its town. Megan Gelstein of Catapult Film Fund interviews filmmakers Jerry Risius and Beth Levison about the inspiration behind the film and their intended impact.

Spotlight – Kaitlin Yarnall and Jim Brady

The National Geographic Society’s Kaitlin Yarnall interviews Jim Brady, the incoming VP of Journalism at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, on how to build a future for journalism that is sustainable.

Spotlight – Philly D.A. Documentary

“Philly D.A.” tracks the reform efforts of Larry Krasner, a civil rights lawyer turned district attorney in Philadelphia. We talk to the filmmakers about their vérité-style account of one man’s takeover of an institution that he had been fighting for over 30 years.

Did you attend the breakout sessions? An MIF staff member will be sending links to recordings of the sessions that you attended. Stay tuned.