5 Ways Place-Based Foundations Can Support Local News

MEDIUM — November 5, 2019 — Local foundations are known for directing grants to nonprofits in their towns, but not as much for supporting local news. That equation is changing, as more place-based foundations see watchdog journalism faltering. Many times they have an “a-ha” moment when they realize that no one is covering a topic of interest in their community: education, climate change or public health.

“If [foundations] do not have a megaphone, they do not have a way to amplify the issues they are concerned with, then they are not going to be successful in their missions,” said Julie Sandorf, president of the Charles H. Revson Foundation in New York. “The best way to do that is through quality local journalism.”

Sandorf most recently shepherded Revson’s $2.5 million grant to help create a new digital-native publication The City.

But there are many challenges for place-based foundations that have never funded journalism. Independent journalism must be truly independent from input from funders and investigative reports can dig up uncomfortable truths. One way to overcome those challenges is for the foundations to work in collaboration with seasoned media funders.

LaMonte Guillory, chief communications officer for LOR Foundation, helped create a Mountain West project with 50+ newsrooms with three other place-based foundations supporting it. Guillory took a “soft sell” approach to other local foundations, speaking at events and hosting webinars to make them comfortable with the idea before pitching for support.

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