Support for nonprofit newsrooms, both from consumers and grantmakers, has been on the rise, but questions about conflict-of-interest policies have simultaneously popped up, a study by Media Impact Funders finds.
Conducted by NORC at the University of Chicago in partnership with Media Impact Funders and the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, the study, Journalism and Philanthropy: Growth, Diversity and Potential Conflicts of Interest (17 pages, PDF), found that more than half of funders said their journalism grantmaking had increased in the last five years, with roughly a third reporting funding journalism for the first time. Support for news outlets focused on communities of color also increased, with six in 10 funders making grants to such outlets.
In addition, the survey found progress on funding disclosure and conflict of interest policies since a 2015 report. Seven in 10 nonprofit news operations now have written policies about disclosing funders, up from four in 10 eight years ago. But the risk of conflict of interest has grown alongside funding; more funders are financing journalism in areas where they also do policy work—57 percent, up from 52 percent in 2015.
“Funders are drawn increasingly to the importance, the impact, and the independence of the journalism they support across a broad array of news organizations and business models,” said Lenfest Institute executive director and CEO Jim Friedlich. “Thankfully, there is no one-size-fits-all model for journalism funding.”