I wrote previously about how important it is to Knight to increase the overall philanthropic spend on local journalism. We know we can’t do it alone, and believe there are a variety of family and place-based foundations, local donors and national foundations that can join us in supporting work that’s so crucial to civic engagement and democracy.
How do we do that? One way is to make catalytic investments, the kind that bring about systemic change not just for one local news publisher or one support organization, but for the entire industry. The Knight brothers were newspaper publishers, so journalism as a conduit to an informed citizenry was a part of their DNA – and part of ours today. And at Knight, our funding strategy is based on a belief in engaged, equitable and inclusive communities that reflect the values expressed in the First Amendment.
That’s why the story of City Bureau and its Documenters program is so important to us. City Bureau is a BIPOC-led nonprofit based in Chicago, but its work has spread far beyond the Windy City. The Documenters program trains citizen “documenters” who learn journalistic ethics and tools, then attend civic events such as school board meetings and post reports online to serve as a public resource. Documenters started in Chicago, then expanded to Detroit, Cleveland, and Minneapolis, and has plans to expand to Atlanta, Fresno, Calif., and Omaha, Neb.
We’re quite enthusiastic about the work Documenters does, and we’re also excited about what Knight’s early funding was able to help unlock:
- Knight invested $50,000 in City Bureau in 2017 as part of our Prototype Fund.
We couldn’t be more thrilled with this outcome. The Documenters program is an elegant solution to a dire problem for democracy: We don’t have enough journalists to cover civic meetings, so let’s train citizens to help do this vital work. We don’t want to support this work alone; we want to activate more investment in local journalism, especially in projects that re-imagine how local communities can stay informed.
Another great example is NewsMatch, a program dreamed up by former Knight Journalism VP Jennifer Preston. Knight invested $1.2 million in 2016 to support 57 nonprofit newsrooms running end-of-year matching campaigns. Now managed by the Institute for Nonprofit News, NewsMatch served 275 newsrooms in 2021, and has helped raise $192 million from individual donors over the course of the program.
Most importantly, we are no longer the only investor in NewsMatch. Heck, we’re not even the largest funder. Dozens of national and local foundations have offered matching funds over the past few years, and NewsMatch announced $12 million in funding for 2022 and 2023. Last year, Knight made its biggest investment in NewsMatch – a $3.5 million. three-year investment – but we were topped by the Loud Hound Foundation. This is catalytic investing in action, and we will continue to look for ideas that can bring systemic change to local news and bring more funders along for the ride.
Other news around the horn…
🚀Community media goes big. You might think of community publications, radio stations and newsletters that cover underserved audiences as small. But they add up to quite a lot, and have a huge impact in communities of color. That’s why the work of the Center for Community Media (CCM) at CUNY is so important, and why Knight is investing more than $2 million so it can expand its many programs for publishers of color. One of CCM’s signature programs is the Advertising Boost Initiative, which led to New York City spending more than $25 million in ads with ethnic and community media the past two years. The Knight investment will allow CCM to bring that program to more cities while expanding programs for Black, Latino and Asian media.
💼 Change is coming to the executive suite. Speaking of CUNY, its Executive Program in News Innovation and Leadership just announced a powerful, global and diverse cohort of 23 executives for its 2023 edition. Just how varied? There’s someone from the Wall Street Journal, Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa (in Colombia), Grup Edicions de Premsa Local (in Spain) and Radio BUH (in Germany). The only sad note is the departure of program director Anita Zielina. Applications are open for interested folks who want to lead the program.
🇺🇸 Report for America wants to serve the unserved. Report for America had an audacious goal a few years back: to help place 1,000 reporting corps members across the country. They are now up to 300 reporters in 200 newsrooms, and are looking for more, with a focus on supporting publishers of color and rural newsrooms. The impact has been immense so far. “It has been a game changer,” said Dr. Paulette Brown-Hinds, publisher of Black Voice News. “The quality of reporter that we’re able to afford, we couldn’t afford before. It’s been such a boost to our newsroom.” Newsrooms can apply to join the next cohort by October 3.
👭🏾 How a White reporter shared her byline with a Black farmer. When Scalawag reporter Erica Hensley (who is White) set out to tell the story about Black farmers in Mississippi, her editor had a novel idea: Why don’t you co-report the story with the farmer? Hensley decided that “we, as an industry and in that moment as editorial decision-makers, had to do more to center more Black people,” and so she co-reported and co-bylined the story with Teresa Ervin-Springs. Hensley wrote a separate story about her process in writing the story, learning that it took more time, but produced much better results. “The reward for harder reporting is a richer, truer story. And now, Teresa is already working on her book,” Hensley wrote.
👩🏽 Improving coverage of working-class women. Staying on the theme of reducing extractive reporting practices, OpenNews and the Center for Public Integrity are producing an online half-day event on Sept. 16 that will help reporters do a better job covering working-class women (especially women of color). The two panels will include a discussion on how reporters can get more community feedback and input, and one on best practices and challenges. You can register for the free event here.
📰 The state of digital news. If you live, breathe and sweat local news (like us), you will want to dive into Northwestern’s fantastic State of Local News report. Of special note is the “Tale of Two Digital Sites” looking at the differences between San Jose Spotlight in an urban area and Benito Link in a more exurban community – both in the Bay Area. While both have thrived, Benito Link doesn’t have the plethora of funding sources of an outlet in San Jose. “We are a small, rural news organization,” Benito Link executive director Leslie David said. “Major grant givers want (impact) in terms of reaching lots of people, and we can’t provide that.” This resource disparity should be a big focus for funders who want to water news deserts.
❄️ Aspen Institute, Lenfest building road map for local news. Aspen Institute always brings to mind good skiing and deep thinking. Now, in partnership with Lenfest Institute, they are taking a hard look at the challenges of local news, and more importantly, solutions. After a recent Local News Summit with innovators in the field, Aspen released a series of essays called “Signposts on the Road Map for Local News” (are we there yet?), including insights from S. Mitra Kalita at URL Media, Jim Friedlich at Lenfest, Amanda Zamora at The 19th, Elizabeth Hansen Shapiro at the National Trust for Local News, and Deb Roy at MIT. Best of all is that each essay presents challenges and recommendations culled from the Summit. Gloom and doom, plus a light at the end of the tunnel. Imagine that.
Upcoming Events 📅
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Online News Association (ONA) Conference
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Written by Karen Rundlet, with Mark Glaser
Edited by Jessica Clark and Jim Brady