Ensuring Journalism Serves the Diverse American Public
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. To meet this need, journalism must center the genuine and immediate information gaps of whole communities and correct persistent inequities.
Equity at the Heart of News
While every American needs quality information to live well and contribute to civic life, news organizations have long overrepresented the interests of people privileged with wealth and power. People of color, women, and the LGBTQ community, for example, have factored far too little into what is covered, how it’s covered, and from whose perspective. At the same time, newsrooms run by and for historically marginalized groups have long modeled what we now call “engaged journalism” — with a deep understanding of their communities, they have created content that serves community needs. Building this relationship between journalists and communities is important. Traditional outlets with a history of exclusion must keep equity at the center of their efforts to embrace this model.
Our Equitable Journalism strategy supports innovations and practices that:
- Improve equity across news sources, staff, and stories
- Connect journalists and their communities in a productive, two-way relationship
- Foster greater transparency about news ethics and processes to strengthen accountability and build trust
- Diversify the leaders who have decision-making authority in local newsrooms and other media outlets
- Protect and support practitioners who are experiencing online harassment in their work to create more engaged, equitable journalism
To produce meaningful, trustworthy news that truly meets the needs of communities, media outlets must be led and staffed by people who reflect and identify with communities in all of their diversity. Communities must grow in their understanding of what it takes to produce high-quality news so they can demand it, count on it, and support it as a vital civic asset.
Note: This strategy was previously called “Engaged Journalism.” We shifted the name to “Equitable Journalism” in 2021 to better represent the mission and goals of our work. We continue to believe that engagement is a core practice for realizing equity.
Created in 2019, the Racial Equity in Journalism Fund launched with $3.6 million to support and build the capacity of newsrooms by and for people of color, who are best positioned to deliver critical news and information to their communities. The fund is managed by Borealis Philanthropy, and current funder collaborators include Democracy Fund, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, Ford Foundation, Google News Initiative, and the News Integrity Initiative at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY.
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
Trusted and responsible local news and information increases civic engagement, community cohesion, and government accountability — but over the past two decades, many American communities have lost their hometown sources. The Ecosystem News strategy aims to transform local news so everyone has access to information they need to participate in our democracy and live a healthy life.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