Building Networks for Sustainable, Responsive, and Diverse Local Journalism
Over the past two decades, local news coverage has diminished across America, leading to lower civic engagement, voter turnout, and social cohesion. We’re partnering with leaders across the country to cultivate strong and vibrant news ecosystems so that everyone has access to local information they can rely on to participate in our democracy.
A Community Approach to the Future of Local News
Having news about where you live matters. Local stories strengthen our connection to a place and its people, promoting empathy that resists polarization. Those who follow local news are more likely to vote — and understand their choices at the ballot box. Local reporters hold government and corporations accountable, leading to less waste and corruption. What’s more, local publications are often the first to break news of national urgency and historic importance because of their trust and relationships in their communities.
But due to economic and social shifts over the past two decades, many American communities have lost their hometown outlets. In places where there was once a thriving news industry, dominated by big newspapers and television stations, people now have significantly fewer trustworthy sources of information about what’s happening in their own backyards.
Journalists and residents across the country are working to rebuild local reporting and provide their communities the news and information they need. We see greater focus on developing news ecosystems that comprise local newsrooms, libraries, universities, government agencies, and other information sources working together to serve the public. Healthy news ecosystems are diverse, sustainable, interconnected, and deeply engaged with their communities.
Our Ecosystem News strategy helps foster and support healthy local news and information ecosystems through efforts that:
- Promote community-driven models that are authentic to local strengths and contexts
- Support research on promising practices and create learning groups of local news leaders
- Invest in innovative efforts to build sustainable business models for local news
- Support organizations that build strong networks and relationships for sharing best practices
- Invest in joint philanthropic funds that build the sustainability of local news ecosystems
- Provide advice and tools for philanthropy on how to invest in journalism and local news
This work intends to transform local journalism to make it more resilient to survive changing times, and more responsive to community needs. To do so, it calls for new models and new relationships between journalists, newsrooms, and communities.
Catalyzing Local Lessons
The Local News Lab, a project of Democracy Fund, is a catalyst for connection and exchange among local news ecosystem builders to help strengthen the role local news and information plays within communities in our democracy. The site provides funders and journalism advocates with case studies of new ideas in local reporting, community engagement, business models, research, and more. It also houses the archive for the weekly Local Fix newsletter.
Democracy Fund collaborates with donors and peer foundations on strategic investments to strengthen local news and information efforts. NewsMatch is a national matching fund campaign that drives dollars and offers sustainability coaching to support local reporting, cultivate the long-term sustainability of nonprofit news, and deepen relationships between newsrooms and communities. Regional local news funds are being created around the country to unite place-based and national funders in support of innovative, locally led approaches to meeting community information needs.
Editorial Firewall Policy
We adhere to a strict policy preserving the editorial independence of all our journalism grantees. In the instance of a grantee approaching a member of our staff for comment, we require them to go through our communications team — not a program officer — and we alert the reporter of the funding relationship. We also request that if they quote a member of our team they disclose our funding of their organization in any story produced.
In addition, the Democracy Fund communications staff does not send pitches to the nonprofit newsrooms we support, and we include language in our grant agreements that we won’t discuss editorial content with journalism grantees or otherwise seek to influence their coverage. However, we may alert newsroom leadership of Democracy Fund developments and news in the course of regular engagement with grantees.
Public Square strategies support trustworthy local news, press freedom, community engagement in news, investigative journalism, and digital media that advance democracy, not hate.
With the rise of social media platforms, online spaces have a growing influence on American life. But left unchecked, these sites can distort reality, channel discrimination, and undermine elections. Our Digital Democracy strategy seeks to shift the dynamics of online platforms to support civic participation and safeguard civil rights.Learn more about this effort
Americans need news that fully reflects their communities and responds to their interests to help them participate meaningfully in democracy, exercise their rights, and inform daily living. Our Engaged Journalism strategy aims to make journalism more inclusive, responsive, and relevant to all Americans.Learn more about this effort
Americans count on a free press to provide answers and reveal truths that those in power would rather obscure. The Press Freedom strategy works to ensure that journalists of all kinds are free to pursue facts of public interest and tell the whole story — and that newsrooms are equipped to defend against attacks and restrictions on reporting.Learn more about this effort
Investigative journalism provides a check and balance on the powerful by shining a spotlight on corruption, conflicts of interest, and decisions that endanger the public. This special project supports the time, deep investment, and protection that this kind of journalism requires.Learn more about this effort