By Nancy Lane • CEO, Local Media Association/Local Media Foundation
Investigative reporting is essential to a healthy democracy. Unfortunately, it’s expensive to produce and has disappeared at many news organizations as more and more journalism jobs have been eliminated.
Today we are announcing The Fund for Local Journalism — with a goal of $10 million over three years — to fund 1,000 investigative reporting projects across North America.
Whether it’s holding government officials accountable, like the Ledger-Enquirer did when Georgia health officials inflated the number of COVID-19 tests in the state by 57,000, or taking down Jeffrey Epstein by the Miami Herald, one of the biggest sexual predators our country has ever seen, this level of reporting is more important than ever.
Today, reporters are stretched thin covering the death of George Floyd and the resulting protests as well as the impact of COVID-19 on local communities. Both issues require a deeper dive with a solutions-journalism focus at a time when resources are scarce.
The Fund for Local Journalism will provide micro-payments to news organizations in the U.S. and Canada to support timely investigative reporting topics that educate the public on important issues. The application process will be open to all local media organizations and judged by a committee of trusted journalists and academics.
Along with straightforward online options for individual donors, the Fund will offer many options for foundations, philanthropists and institutional donors to participate. Funds can be designated by geography (media in a state or region, down to a single media outlet), media type (newspapers, broadcasters, digital news sites), ownership structure (for-profit, non-profit, public, private, etc.) and audience (those serving communities of color, for example).
Philanthropy and collaborative journalism programs represent one of our three core pillars at LMA for 2020 along with diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, and business transformation strategies. We see more and more news organizations securing philanthropic funding to support local reporting projects and in-depth, investigative, accountability and solutions journalism efforts. We know of newsrooms that have 10 or more reporters paid for by philanthropic funding. It’s exciting to see the funding community rally around local news and information.
News organizations that are looking to fund journalism with philanthropic partners can now work directly with the LMA team to set up the infrastructure to make this happen. Local Media Foundation, a 501(c)(3) charitable trust, is ready to serve as the fiscal sponsor. Simply contact us to set up a time to discuss.
Community and national foundations, philanthropists, corporations and others can donate to the Fund for Local Journalism with assurance that LMF will properly administer the program designed to educate the public on important community issues.
For the past six months, a committee of LMA and LMF board members worked on the details of this fund. We had a diverse mix of companies represented including family and independently-owned newspapers and broadcasters, and public media. We also consulted with numerous funders to get their input.
We call on everyone who cares about watchdog journalism to support this fund. Share it with your friends and colleagues. The work of journalists has never been more important and the state of the industry has never been more fragile. Investigative reporting is a public good and as worthy as the arts, education and healthcare when it comes to philanthropic giving.