Investigative Journalism

Revealing Truths and Holding Power to Account

With politically motivated attacks on the media, restricted access to the halls of power, and diminished funding for local coverage, the field of investigative reporting is critical to protecting our democracy. Deliberate investments in the sustainability and quality of investigative reporting are required to maintain this vital check on power.

Fighting Corruption, Fueling Reforms

Investigative journalism delves deeply into issues of public concern, asking tough questions and holding the powerful accountable. Today, investigative journalism is under siege, as government leaders restrict media access and attack the credibility of factual reporting for political advantage. This is a concern at the national level, as well as at the local and state levels, where smaller newsrooms struggle to maintain the reporting required to break stories exposing corruption, inequity, repression, and racism that have local and national impact.

Democracy Fund supports investigative journalism to help ensure Americans can count on a bold, trustworthy press that lays the groundwork for accountability and reforms.

 Our grants and partners work to:

  • Support investigative outlets so they can research and report on issues of public interest that might otherwise be obscured
  • Build the investigative capacity of local newsrooms so they can achieve and sustain rigorous grassroots reporting
  • Develop newsroom staffing and leadership to better represent and respond to the diversity of community needs and experiences
  • Create innovative tools and support policies that make information of high public interest more accessible

These powerful storytellers publish news articles and create documentaries, podcasts, data visualizations, and other media to share critical facts on topics ranging from maternal health to hate crimes and the opioid crisis. Their thoughtful, in-depth reporting reveals conflicts of interest and wrongdoing and results in much-needed remedies, including resignations, divestments, and policy change.

Supporting and Protecting Investigative Journalism

Democracy Fund collaborates with donors and peer foundations on strengthening investigative journalism. NewsMatch is a national matching funds campaign that drives dollars to support local reporting, build long-term sustainability of nonprofit news, and raise awareness about journalism’s role in America. Local News Lab funds are being created around the country, bringing together local and national funders to support innovative, locally led approaches to meet local community information needs. The Racial Equity in Journalism Fund invests in newsrooms led by and serving communities of color. The Legal Clinic Fund works to build new protections for local investigative journalists.

Learn more about these joint funds.

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.

Explore our Other Public Square Strategies

Public Square strategies support trustworthy local news, press freedom, community engagement in news, investigative journalism, and digital media that advance democracy, not hate.

Learn more about our Public Square program

Digital Democracy

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

Ecosystem News

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

Engaged Journalism

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

Press Freedom

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