Supporting diverse journalism for diverse communities: Introducing The Lenfest Next Generation Fund

The Lenfest Institute is today announcing a new program that will provide awards to Philadelphia-area journalists of color to attend industry conferences

This post is by Mariela Morales Suárez and Cheryl Thompson-Morton.

We want to tell you something you may or may not already know: The journalism industry is not fully reflective of the communities it serves.

Just 22.6 percent of journalists working in U.S. newsrooms were people of color and 41.7 percent were women, according to the 2018 ASNE diversity survey.

Compare those numbers to Census data that shows in 2018 people of color made up nearly 40 percent of the U.S. population and more than 50 percent of the population is female. In Philadelphia, the ASNE data showed that on average people of color comprised 24 percent of the reporting newsrooms’ workforce. But more than 65 percent of Philadelphia County residents are people of color.

We at the Lenfest Institute for Journalism have worked to start addressing this disparity. One example is the Lenfest Fellows, a grant program that provides two-year journalism fellowships to six emerging journalists of color at The Philadelphia Inquirer. The fellows have already begun meaningfully contributing to news coverage. #MadeInPhilly, a series focused on millenials working to address community challenges in Philadelphia, is just one highlight. But we know there is still much more work to be done.

That’s why today we are launching the Lenfest Journalism Next Generation Fund. The Lenfest Institute has committed $25,000 to this fund in 2019. The fund will provide awards of up to $1,200 to Philadelphia-area journalists and students of color to attend a professional conference of their choice.

Why name it the Next Generation Fund? The Census projected that by 2045 the United States will be majority non-white. In some cities like Philadelphia, that is already the case. We know that to fulfill Lenfest’s overarching mission of finding sustainable business models for important local journalism, coverage needs to be reflective, relatable and relevant to diverse communities. To do that, newsrooms need to have members of these diverse communities shaping their coverage. Our aspirational goal with our diversity programming is for 50 percent of working journalists in Philadelphia to be people of color by 2025. We will share updates on our work and its efficacy as we continue this important work, and we want your feedback throughout this process.

Since the summer of 2017, when we both joined The Lenfest Institute, we have had the privilege of working with many incredibly talented journalists and students. As co-leads of these diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives at the Institute, we try continuously to understand the needs of historically underrepresented groups in newsrooms. We seek to address some of those needs through our work, whether through direct grant funding or by facilitating and furthering the understanding of diverse cultures and groups through regular Institute events and seminars.

This is how the Lenfest Journalism Next Generation Fund works:

- To be considered you have to a journalist or a student of journalism who resides in the Greater Philadelphia Area and self-identifies as a member of a group that has historically been underrepresented in newsrooms.

- Our Professional Journalist and Student Journalist applications are open until March 11th at 11:59PM. We believe that language should never be a barrier to opportunity, so you can apply in Spanish here.

- To make sure that our awardees take full advantage of their chosen conferences and that they are well-supported, we have worked on pre-vetting and developing partnerships with these conference organizers:

● Online News Association (ONA)
● Online News Association Local Summit (ONA)
● Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE)
● SRCCON
● National Association of Hispanic Journalist (NAHJ)
● National Native Media Conference (NAJA)
● National Association of Black Journalist (NABJ)
● Asian American Journalist Association (AAJA)
● The Association of LGBTQ Journalist
● ASNE-APME News Leadership
● Local Independent Online News Publishers (LION)
● International Symposium on Online Journalism (ISOJ)

For more information about the grant program, we will be holding an online webinar on Thursday, February 21st at 1PM EST. Please RSVP for the call at this link.

We would like to thank our co-workers and leadership at the Institute for their support and encouragement during the planning and incubation process of the Lenfest Journalism Next Generation Fund.

Lastly, we are indebted to the community of journalists of color in Philadelphia, who have inspired, molded and shaped this work. We hope this initiative will help propel you to even brighter futures in journalism.