Our Commitment to an Independent Free Press

March 27, 2017

At a time when news organizations find themselves under attack, the Democracy Fund along with our partners at First Look Media are announcing today the largest grants either organization has made to date in support of journalism.

For years, the media industry has struggled against major economic threats that have severely undermined our fourth estate. In response, the Democracy Fund’s Public Square program has worked with journalists across the country to experiment with new models that can reinvigorate local media and ensure that newsrooms are able to fulfill their core responsibilities to a healthy democracy.

But the political attacks that journalists have faced over the past 18 months represent something wholly new and potentially toxic to a free and open society.

At the Democracy Fund, we believe that a robust free press is essential. We must not take it for granted. In times like these, we all must do our part to stand with journalists and fight for core democratic values and norms.

With this in mind, the Democracy Fund is joining with First Look Media to make major commitments of more than $12 million to support an independent, free press. Included in this commitment are grants of $3 million each to three national nonprofit newsrooms, the Center for Investigative Reporting, the Center for Public Integrity, and ProPublica.

The Democracy Fund will complement its support for these national newsrooms with a $1 million contribution towards the creation of a State and Local Investigative Fund to support the crucial investigative work of local reporters, as well as a $200,000 contribution to the recently announced Knight Prototype Fund on misinformation and trust in journalism.

The Democracy Fund and First Look Media are also announcing grants to the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University and a new program led by NYU Professor Jay Rosen to establish a laboratory for community-supported investigative reporting.

Together, these grants will support some of our nation’s most important investigative newsrooms. Not only that, these newsrooms are building new models for reporting that put people at the heart of their work through creativity, collaboration, and civic engagement. In so doing, they have brought new people into journalism, highlighted new voices, and told fuller and more truthful stories.

An additional $800,000 grant to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press from the Democracy Fund will help to protect the independence and freedom of journalists to ask hard questions and conduct courageous investigations.

Journalists play a critical role in holding the powerful accountable to our Constitution and the American people. A healthy democracy requires access to diverse and accurate sources of information for policymakers and the public so that they can make sound decisions in service of the common good. We hope that these new commitments will build upon the $18 million in grants that the Democracy Fund’s Public Square program has made over the past five years to support local news, community engagement, newsroom diversity, and combating misinformation.

These grants represent a significant financial commitment in support of excellent journalism, but they do not represent the end of our support. In the weeks and months to come, we hope to work with partners from all sectors to find other ways to do our part to ensure that journalists can play their rightful role in our democracy.

Details about the grants we announced today may be found below. (You can also learn about additional grants announced by First Look Media – home of The Intercept – here).

Stay tuned for further announcements as our team at the Democracy Fund continues to find ways to support the important work of ensuring that the American public come first in our democracy.

Democracy Fund and First Look Media Joint Grants Include:

  • The Center for Investigative Reporting, $3 million over two years – This grant provides general operating support to CIR as they pioneer new models of investigative reporting rooted in collaboration, community engagement, and creativity.
  • The Center for Public Integrity, $3 million over two years – This grant provides general operating support to CPI to expand its watchdog reporting and strengthen its ability to hold institutions accountable to the American people.
  • ProPublica, $3 million over two years – This grant provides general operating support to ProPublica, whose groundbreaking work combines hard-hitting investigations and cutting edge data journalism in service to communities.
  • The Investigative Reporting Workshop, $500,000 over two years – This grant provides general operating support to the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University to deepen its model of accountability reporting, which combines students and professional journalists in collaboration with longstanding newsrooms.
  • New York University, $275,000 over one year – This grant will establish a laboratory for community-supported investigative reporting through a unique partnership between New York University and De Correspondent. The project will focus on developing sustainable business models for U.S. newsrooms rooted in new membership structures and draw on the lessons from a world leader in community-driven accountability journalism.

Additional Democracy Fund Grants Include:

  • Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, $800,000 over two years – This grant provides general operating support to the Reporters Committee to enhance its ability to provide legal resources and guidance for independent journalists and nonprofit news outlets, in addition to continuing its work with longtime partners in broadcast, print, and online news media.
  • State and Local Investigative Fund, $1 million initial investment – With this funding, Democracy Fund seeks to establish a new fund for state and local investigative journalism and invite other funders and donors to contribute and collaborate. The goal of the fund is to serve as a beacon for those who want to support local and state news, investigative beats, and nonprofit news.
  • Knight Prototype Fund on Misinformation, $200,000 over one year – Democracy Fund also contributed $200,000 to the Knight Prototype Fund’s $1 million open call for ideas on misinformation and trust in journalism, a partnership with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Rita Allen Foundation; the open call is accepting applications until April 3.
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