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The 2019 Media Impact Forum
On May 23, funders and media makers are coming together for a day of inspiring media presentations and dialogue, and the chance to network with peers to deepen learning and spark collaboration. We will be livestreaming the day’s events, so stay tuned!
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The 2019 Media Impact Forum

Parachuting in is out.

That’s one key takeaway from a new report from Media Impact Funders that we’re excited to release this week: Global Media Philanthropy: What Funders Need to Know About Data, Trends and Pressing Issues Facing the Field. Produced with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, this scan of global media philanthropy synthesizes many months of interviews, surveys and analyses on our part, as well as offering trenchant perspectives from experts working across the globe.

For funders based in America, issues related to supporting media projects, policy and infrastructure halfway across the world might seem a bit remote. But in truth, foundations everywhere are grappling with many of the same concerns, and issues “over there” are connected to the same issues affecting media in the U.S.:

  • Incorporating insights from the ground up: One message we heard from multiple sources is that foundations too often make decisions from on high, without gathering useful input from grantees and intermediaries in the trenches. Cynthia Gibson writes about this in her piece, “Lessons from citizen journalism—the promise of citizen philanthropy,” as does Laura Schwartz-Henderson in her piece, “Funding media freedom and digital rights,” which advocates for a “demand-driven” approach to policy interventions.
  • Making the case for—or perhaps against—nonprofit news: While U.S. funders have been taking the lead in supporting and expanding nonprofit journalism, foundations in Europe have begun to pick up the baton. The report offers an overview of these efforts, as well as a counterpoint from Christoph Plate of KAS Media Africa, who argues, “Media philanthropy, no matter with what good intentions, can in the long-run undermine journalistic ethics.”
  • Protecting public media: Here at home, the president’s most recent budget proposal threatens to slash funding for public broadcasting. Around the world, public service broadcasting (PSB) is facing similar issues, as well as fighting off government interference in coverage. “The challenges for PSB and [public service media] seem enormous,” writes scholar Minna Horowitz in her piece, “but they also highlight opportunities for funders to engage in impactful and meaningful ways to support quality journalism, national and local cultures, and media literacy.”
  • Keeping grantees safe: For the first time in a long while, American journalists and outlets are facing threats to free speech and personal safety that had previously been associated with countries where democracy is less entrenched. What’s more, there are pressing new dangers related to cybersecurity and online privacy. In their piece, Rowan Reid and Marjorie Rouse of Internews urge funders to support a “holistic approach to operational and digital security,” which involves funding a “community of safe actors” rather than individual organizations. Unfortunately, as Marius Dragomir, director of the Center for Media, Data and Society, explains, sometimes conditions on the ground get so hostile, funders just have to leave (though leaving does not mean ending support for essential media coverage).
  • Fostering collaboration: Just as U.S. funders are seeking to better understand and support local news ecosystems, funders around the world are learning how to identify and support coalitions dedicated to strengthening media in particular countries. In their piece, Nicholas Benequista and Paul Rothman of CIMA offer tips for building effective coalitions, noting that this “can be done nationally, regionally, or globally, though many of the complex challenges facing media require coordinated action at all those levels.”

Such shared questions and concerns will be in the air over the next month, as U.S.-based funders connect with their peers and media practitioners at such gatherings as the Skoll World Forum, the International Journalism Festival, and the International Symposium on Journalism. We hope this report will help to illuminate these discussions, and look forward to hearing related feedback and questions.

About the Authors
Jessica Clark

Jessica Clark

Research Consultant

Jessica is a research consultant for Media Impact Funders, and the founder and director of media production/strategy firm Dot Connector Studio. She is also currently a senior fellow at the Norman Lear Center’s Media Impact Project. Previously, she served as the media strategist for AIR’s groundbreaking Localore project, the director of the Future of Public Media project at American University’s Center for Media and Social Impact, and a Knight Media Policy Fellow at D.C.-based think tank the New America Foundation. Over the past decade, she has led research and convenings with high-profile universities and national media networks, including NPR, PBS, Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, MIT, and USC’s Annenberg School for Communication. She is the co-author of Beyond the Echo Chamber: Reshaping Politics Through Networked Progressive Media (The New Press, 2010), and a longtime independent journalist.

Sarah Armour-Jones

Sarah Armour-Jones

Research Consultant

Sarah Armour-Jones is a consultant to foundations, nonprofits and academic institutions, with a focus on media and the role it plays in making lasting social change. Aligning strategic planning, communications, creative campaigns, network development, research and community engagement, Sarah helps organizations tell meaningful stories and increase their impact. Current and past clients include the Rita Allen Foundation, Media Impact Funders, the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, the Proteus Fund, Wharton Research Data Services at the Wharton School, and Free Press. Prior to her work as a consultant, she served as Special Projects Manager for philanthropist David Haas, Officer of Program Administration at the Pew Charitable Trusts, Editorial Assistant at the British Film Institute and Marketing Director at Free Press. Sarah earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Pennsylvania. She works from her farmhouse in Vermont along with her husband, three daughters and assorted pets.