A national coalition of donors catalyzes local news and information for stronger communities
September 7, 2023 – A coalition of 22 donors announced Press Forward, a national initiative to strengthen communities and democracy by supporting local news and information with an infusion of more than a half-billion dollars over the next five years. Press Forward will enhance local journalism at an unprecedented level to re-center local news as a force for community cohesion; support new models and solutions ready to scale; and close longstanding inequities in journalism coverage and practice.
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. Press Forward seeks to reverse the dramatic decline in local news that has coincided with an increasingly divided America and weakening trust in institutions.
National, regional, local, and issue-specific funders co-designed Press Forward to deploy significant new resources to the field through greater coordination and peer learning. Informed by insights and feedback from leaders and practitioners, this multi-funder collaborative aligned on a set of shared values to guide their grantmaking: prioritizing transformation, centering community needs, growing with equity, ensuring accessibility, and preserving the editorial independence of newsgathering organizations.
Initial Press Forward partners are The Archewell Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln, Democracy Fund, Ford Foundation, Mary W. Graham, Glen Nelson Center at American Public Media Group, Heising-Simons Foundation, Henry Luce Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Joyce Foundation, KFF, Knight Foundation, The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, Lumina Foundation, McKnight Foundation, Outrider Foundation, Rita Allen Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Skyline Foundation, and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
“We are pleased to join this broad coalition of funders in advancing local news and information to build stronger communities and help shore up American democracy,” said Jamie Merisotis, Lumina’s president and CEO and past chairman of the Council on Foundations, a national membership association representing more than 850 foundations.
“Through involvement in the Indiana Local News Initiative, we have applied lessons from nearly two decades of supporting public and nonprofit news organizations at the national, state, and local levels. We want to help foster the knowledge and understanding essential to building a better-educated country, and independent journalism plays an essential role. For efforts like Indiana’s to succeed, we must widen participation among foundations locally—and beyond.”
Lumina has pledged $10 million over five years to accelerate efforts to support local news and information. Much of this funding will support the Indiana initiative, which includes the creation of a new Indianapolis newsroom to complement existing news coverage, a Documenters Network in which residents are paid to monitor and report out on public meetings, a new Capital B newsroom in Gary, improved coverage of rural Indiana from Public News Service, and widely available government accountability news from Franklin College’s Statehouse File and The Indiana Citizen.
“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. “The philanthropic sector recognizes the need to strengthen American democracy and is beginning to see that progress on every other issue, from education and healthcare to criminal justice reform and climate change, is dependent on the public’s understanding of the facts.”
While philanthropic support for journalism has grown over the past decade, overall giving to local news falls short of what is needed. Press Forward partners are ready to move from individual grantmaking strategies to a shared vision and coordinated action that ensures individuals are informed and engaged on issues that affect their everyday lives.
Press Forward partners have identified the following priorities and have committed to making grants in one or more of these four areas of focus:
- Strengthen local newsrooms with 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 must invest boldly 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 the 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.
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.”
The Miami Foundation will serve as the fiscal sponsor for Press Forward and will manage a pooled fund and coordinate aligned grantmaking on behalf of participating funders. It will hire a small staff who will focus on growing and supporting funder engagement and learning and help advance the initiative’s goals.
Some funders are expected to make exemplary aligned grants before the end of the year; most will begin grantmaking in 2024. Donors will make grants from the pooled fund in 2024.
Organizations interested in Press Forward can sign up for updates to learn more about applying for future grants. Press Forward welcomes and continues to invite additional funders to enhance nonprofit, public, and for-profit news and information.
- Funders commit $500 million to reverse decline in local news | Philanthropy News Digest | September 8, 2023
- Philanthropies Pledge $500 Million to Address Crisis in Local News | New York Times | September 7, 2023
- Can Local News Heal a Divided Country? 22 Foundations Are Betting $500 Million It Can Help | The Chronicle of Philanthropy | September 7, 2023
- New group pledges over $500M to support local journalism | Axios | September 7, 2023
- Carnegie Corporation of New York Contributes $5 Million to National Initiative Focused on Revitalizing Local News | Carnegie Corporation of New York | September 7, 2023