Carnegie Corp. of New York announced Sept. 7 that it is joining a coalition of 22 philanthropic donors as part of Press Forward, an unprecedented collaboration to strengthen communities and our democracy by supporting local news through a fund of more than $500 million. Carnegie is awarding $5 million in addition to its existing portfolio of media grants, according to a Business Wire news release distributed by The Associated Press.
“The goal of Press Forward is to recenter local news as a force for community cohesion, to support new models and solutions that are ready to scale, and to reduce inequities in journalism coverage and practice,” Carnegie said in the release.
Since 2005, approximately 2,200 local newspapers have closed, resulting in 20 percent of Americans living in “news deserts” with little to no reliable coverage of important local events. In response, a wide range of funders designed Press Forward to deploy significant resources to support local news initiatives with a focus on greater coordination and peer learning. To guide their grantmaking, funders aligned on a set of shared values that prioritize community needs and issues such as ensuring accessibility to news and preserving the editorial independence of news organizations.
“Like others across the country, we at Carnegie Corporation of New York have been greatly concerned by the growing polarization of American society and by the erosion of the forces of social cohesion,” said Dame Louise Richardson, president of the foundation. “We believe that together these trends are undermining the strength of our democracy. By investing in local news through the Press Forward initiative, we have an extraordinary opportunity to ensure that many more communities have access to local news coverage and fact-based information about issues that affect their daily lives. In so doing, we seek to encourage unfettered civil discourse and freedom of speech, hallmarks of any vibrant democracy.”
In addition to Carnegie Corporation of New York, initial Press Forward partners are the Archewell Foundation; the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln; Democracy Fund; the Ford Foundation; Mary W. Graham; Glen Nelson Center at American Public Media Group; the Heising-Simons Foundation; the Henry Luce Foundation; the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; the Joyce Foundation; KFF; Knight Foundation; the Lenfest Institute for Journalism; Lumina Foundation; the McKnight Foundation; the Outrider Foundation; the Rita Allen Foundation; the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Skyline Foundation; and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
“We have a moment to support the reimagination, revitalization, and rapid development of local news. We are prepared to support the strongest ideas and seed new ones; build powerful networks; and invest in people, organizations, and networks with substantial resources,” said John Palfrey, president of the MacArthur Foundation, who helped spearhead the fund. “The philanthropic sector recognizes the need to strengthen American democracy and is beginning to see that progress on every other issue, from education and health care to criminal justice reform and climate change, is dependent on the public’s understanding of the facts.”
Press Forward is independent of ideology and plans to work with More Perfect, a bipartisan initiative that is advancing five interrelated democracy goals, one of which is Access to Trusted News and Information.
“Press Forward is an audacious effort to fortify a key pillar of American democracy, a healthy and independent free press,” said John Bridgeland, CEO of More Perfect. “Local news provides critical information, knits communities together, and keeps public officials accountable, all of which are essential to a thriving democracy.”
Press Forward partners are maintaining individual grantmaking strategies as well as working toward a shared vision and coordinated action. Each has committed to making grants in one or more of these four areas of focus:
- Strengthen local newsrooms that have the trust of local communities: “There is a growing movement of community-focused journalism across the nation that is shifting how the critical stories of our time are being told. We need to make bold investments in local news organizations and the networks that support and grow them.”
- Accelerate the enabling environment for news production and dissemination: “We need to scale the infrastructure required to support a thriving independent local news sector, expanding shared services and tools — from legal support to membership programs.”
- Close longstanding inequalities in journalism coverage and practice: “We must move resources to newsrooms and organizations that are improving diversity of experience and thought along with the availability of accurate and responsive news and information in historically underserved communities and economically challenged news deserts.”
- Advance public policies that expand access to local news and civic information: “We need new frameworks and robust coalitions to advance policy ideas that expand access to news and information while strengthening the First Amendment and protecting the editorial independence of local journalists. Investments in nonpartisan public policy development, analysis, and advocacy are needed at the local, state, and national levels.”
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