Philanthropy plays a critical role in maintaining our First Amendment freedoms by supporting institutions and independent voices that strengthen a culture of free, democratic discourse. To continue the conversation around protecting these core values, we invited participants in The Pittsburgh Foundation’s recent First Amendment conferences—The National Conference on the First Amendment: Bedrock of American Freedoms, held in October at Duquesne University, and the First Amendment for the Twenty-First Century conference held in June—to share their thoughts on supporting and promoting a First Amendment culture.

Watch the webinar below and use the time stamps to follow along in the recording:

The webinar featured:

  • Maxwell King (5:03), President and CEO of The Pittsburgh Foundation, the driving force behind the “1A” conferences. King explained that the foundation’s interest in press freedom issues Pittsburgh goes back more than a year and a half ago, when President Trump first started talking about the press as the enemy of the people. At a number of events, King said, members of the press were heckled and threatened. That concern quickly translated into the public’s understanding of the First Amendment, and how critical it is to democracy.
  • Fiona Morgan (14:39), who manages MIF’s journalism funders network. Morgan gave us a few examples of how funders are responding to this moment around the crisis of the First Amendment, including investments by the Heising-Simons Foundation and the Barr Foundation. She also mentioned Pen America, a leader in freedom of expression, which is activating their local members through their Press Freedom Investment Fund.
  • Jenni Monet (19:22), an award-winning journalist who writes about indigenous rights and injustice for outlets such as the Center for Investigative Reporting, PBS NewsHour and Al Jazeera. She recounted her experience reporting on—and her arrest at—the Dakota Access Pipeline resistance movement at Standing Rock. Monet, who was later acquitted, pointed webinar participants to the Press Freedom Tracker, a tool that tracks press freedom violations against journalists, including arrests, subpoenas, assaults, equipment seizures and more.
  • Jeffrey Rosen (38:33), President & CEO of the National Constitution Center, discussed his organization’s commitment to bringing conservatives and liberals together to debate constitutional issues. Rosen says the Constitution Center tries to further discussion by framing issues in constitutional rather than political terms. For example, they wouldn’t ask if hate speech is a good or bad idea, but does the First Amendment protect it or not? He finds that this strategy can help push back against the forces currently dividing our nation and bring people together to discuss issues they wouldn’t normally discuss.

About the Journalism Funders Network
MIF’s Journalism Funders Network is a diverse constellation of 50-plus philanthropy organizations working in journalism and media. The network is aimed at strengthening connections among members and giving funders ample opportunities to discuss their current work among peers. Want to join this vibrant and growing network? Let us know.

About the Author
Nina Sachdev

Nina Sachdev

Communications Director

Nina Sachdev brings more than 15 years of journalism, news editing and marketing experience to her role as the communications director for Media Impact Funders. She cut her teeth in journalism at The Dallas Morning News, where—as an intern on the copy desk—she was tasked with editing the obituaries of famous people who hadn’t yet died. Since then, Nina has worked at The Santa Rosa Press Democrat, The Philadelphia Daily News and The Philadelphia Weekly in almost every editorial capacity imaginable, including senior editor, A1 editor (when that used to be a thing) and slot (does anyone remember that being a thing?). Nina is the creator and editor of the award-winning The Survivors Project: Telling the Truth About Life After Sexual Abuse, which exposes the reality of healing from the effects of sexual abuse. Nina holds an M.A. in journalism from Temple University.