Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Knight Foundation pledges $300 million over next five years to help local journalism, lists recipients of first $100 million

"As newsrooms across the country face massive staff layoffs and dwindling revenue, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation announced Tuesday that it will spend $300 million in the next five years to help bring life back to a dessicated local-news landscape," Laura Stampler reports for Fortune magazine. "The organization has decided to double its monetary investment in journalism in the coming years—with a particular focus on local reporting."

The foundation said in a release, "Newsrooms across the nation have been decimated by the collapse of traditional business models brought on by the impact of digital technology and social media, which have drawn readers and advertisers to other information sources on the internet. As a result, many communities have turned into news deserts, with little or no local reporting."

Foundation President Alberto Ibarg├╝en said, “Without revenue, you can’t pay reporters. Without reporters, you can’t develop consistently reliable news reports about what’s happening in your town. Without that reliable news report, you can’t figure out how to run local government. It isn’t rocket science. We’re not funding one-offs. We’re helping to rebuild a local news ecosystem, reliable and sustainable, and we’re doing it in a way that anyone who cares can participate.”

Knight announced recipients of the first $100 million:
  • American Journalism Project ($20 million), a new venture-philanthropy initiative that will make grants and provide support to "local, nonprofit civic news organizations to ensure their long-term sustainability."
  • ProPublica ($5 million), to strengthen local investigative reporting, data-driven reporting and audience engagement. The support will also help expand ProPublica's Local Reporting Network, allowing it to hire local reporters.
  • Report for America ($5 million), a national service program that places journalists in understaffed newsrooms across the country and trains the next generation of journalists working in local news.
  • "Frontline" and PBS ($3 million), for high-quality documentaries and multimedia approach to reporting on local issues, creating up to five geographic hubs involving partnerships with local newsrooms.
  • NewsMatch ($1.5 million), a national matching-gift campaign to grow fundraising capacity in nonprofit newsrooms and promote giving to journalism among U.S. donors.
  • Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press ($10 million), to help local newsrooms defend the First Amendment and hold decision-makers accountable. The committee will triple the number of lawyers working on local issues and expand its network of local attorneys providing free legal support.This initiative "recognizes that today’s journalists, and local news organizations in particular, are less able to pursue legal cases around free speech and freedom of the press due to a lack of resources and support."
  • Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund ($10 million), a partnership with the Lenfest Institute for Journalism to fund digital transformation of local news organizations.
  • The News Literacy Project ($5 million), a nonpartisan nonprofit that empowers educators to teach news literacy to middle- and high-school students, especially in communities where the Knight brothers had newspapers and the foundation makes investments.
  • Solutions Journalism Network ($5 million), which advances community engagement and civic dialogue to produce rigorous reporting that highlights solutions, rather than problems. The initiative will help bring the network to more communities, including those where Knight invests, and encourage collaboration with newsrooms in the American Journalism Project.
  • Cortico ($2 million), which has a listening system — the Local Voices Network — that uses machine learning to analyze online and offline community conversations to help journalists build trust by better understanding the communities they serve and the issues people care about.
  • Finally, Knight is investing $35 million in research to support creation and expansion of research centers around the United States. This research will study the changing nature of an informed society in America and will help build an emerging field of study to address pressing questions about the health of an informed society and citizenry in the digital age.

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