What philanthropy can and must do for journalism.

We need to adjust our strategies for social change to respond to this time of “alternative facts” and “fake news.”

Co-authored by April Suwalsky.

We find ourselves in a time when presidential statements are declared and then retracted by tweet, sweeping regressive policies are executive-ordered without full consideration, and we must somehow pick through dough balls of fiction to find seemingly increasingly rare nuggets of fact.

Ironically, in spite of all this, President Trump has described the media as “among the most dishonest human beings on earth.” We wholeheartedly disagree, which is why we have, over decades, worked with our donor and changemaker partners to sustain and grow the field of credible journalism and investigative reporting.

The attack on the media right now also highlights a deeper issue. Over the last two decades, journalists and media producers have been challenged to sustain business operations in the digital age, all while striving to maintain high-quality content that represents a diversity of voices. Many newsrooms have cut their investigative resources. “Access journalism” has been the name of the game in DC, reducing the ability for journalists to hold elected officials accountable.

The upside: Individual donations and subscriptions to journalism entities are increasing in response to this challenging reality and the political attacks on the media. Major philanthropic support is also seeing a boost.

Last week, Omidyar Network announced it will contribute $100 million to organizations like the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and the Anti-Defamation League to support investigative journalism and counteract hate speech.

Also last week, a cross-sector group including Facebook, the Craig Newmark Philanthropic Fund, and Mozilla announced the News Integrity Initiative, a $14 million effort based at CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism focused on building trust in journalism and “news literacy.”

While the scale of these commitments is promising, more is needed.

Credible journalism is an integral part of sustaining a healthy democracy and documenting diverse American experiences. Newspapers like The Chicago Defender and investigative journalists like Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman (“Nellie Bly”) and Jacob Riis provided information, built connections and movements, and catalyzed social and policy changes.

We must protect this crucial component of our democracy.

Since January of 2014, Tides has granted over $13 million to 160 organizations working on journalism and reporting in the U.S. and abroad, including ProPublica and Positive Futures Network.

ProPublica is a nonprofit organization that produces investigative journalism for the public interest. In a media world of hot takes and warring opinions, ProPublica is investing in long form fact-based storytelling. Their efforts primarily shine a light on the exploitation of the weak by those in power. Just last week, ProPublica responded when White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer called them a “left wing blog,” with a series of tweets, one noting that they are “in the biz of facts.” Yesterday, ProPublica won a Pulitzer Gold Medal for public service.

Positive Futures Network is an independent, nonprofit organization supporting people’s active engagement in creating a just, sustainable, and compassionate world. Positive Futures Network and its publication, YES! magazine, start with the belief that we need deep change if we are to avoid the breakdown of society and the natural world.

Beyond our grantmaking, Tides is also committed to partnering with innovative leaders to increase journalism organizations’ capacity and resources in order to accelerate the pace of social change.

Working with Tides as a fundraising partner and accelerator affords these organizations access to sustained and diversified revenue streams, the ability to receive charitable contributions for educational activities, a network of social justice advocates and organizations, and management of business infrastructure. By partnering with Tides, these organizations can focus on content and doing their important work. They have generated over $1.3M in contributions through Tides since 2014.

By partnering with Tides, these organizations can focus on content and doing their important work.

Tides is also the home for Life of the Law, a growing team of scholars, journalists, producers, editors, writers and attorneys having a conversation about how the law affects American culture and society. They produce investigative feature reports, In-Studio Conversations about law and Live Law storytelling events. Tides has been the fiscal sponsor to Life of the Law since 2014.

Tides also partners with news and online media outlets such as News and Review Sacramento, Truthdig, and Willamette Week to provide a platform for their editorial independence. Through multi-year investigative pieces, they are able to shine a light on many of the issues that impact people around the world. Their investigative reporting efforts are an important educational tool, and by partnering with Tides, they can receive charitable donations to fund that work.

A robust independent media sector is crucial to creating a world of shared prosperity and social justice.

These institutions are exceptionally well positioned to thrive in this current moment, but only if they have the resources and tools to sustain the type of fact-based, community-oriented journalism that we need right now.

Today’s challenges require us to look beyond traditional subscription-based models for sustaining credible journalism. We need to use all tools at our disposal to build the infrastructure to support journalists and storytellers in their work to expose facts and hold people accountable. It is an essential part of our democracy.

“The Truthdig Fund helps address the existing gaps in mainstream media coverage by providing the resources to, first, produce important, credible and original journalism that is vital to a thriving democracy, as well as to provide an educational opportunity for the next generation of diverse journalists to learn alongside experienced newsroom veterans, and lastly to develop a sustainable and realistic business model for covering serious news in a digital world where few financially successful models now exist. Having established the Truthdig Fund at Tides as our nonprofit home, more of our readers are receptive to supporting Truthdig fiscally.”
– Zuade Kaufman, Publisher, Truthdig

Originally published at Tides.org.

Appreciation to Katrin Sharp, Senior Grants Specialist, who provided analysis on Tides’ grants data.

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