Three recent funding announcements demonstrate the role that philanthropy can play as one pillar for sustaining essential local journalism. These investments in local news also highlight the essential connection between journalism and informed, engaged communities. Local newsrooms looking to serve their audiences better can take a lesson from the types of reporting projects that earn funder support.
Over the course of one week in January 2023, three different newsrooms, all graduates of LMA Lab for Journalism Funding programs, secured a total of nearly $2 million for local reporting initiatives.
Enlace Latino NC received $1 million in funding from American Journalism Project to expand their coverage for Latinos in North Carolina. The funding will enable Enlace Latino NC to build a revenue and operations team to support the newsroom’s growth and “ensure that North Carolina has trusted, high-quality local news by and for its Latinx and immigrant communities,” AJP said in announcing the grant.
“Local reporting needs more than the support of its readers,” said Lupita Parra, who worked on the grant for Enlace Latino NC. “Through funding, philanthropy not only helps newsrooms survive and thrive; it also signals to key stakeholders and people in power that local journalism matters and is an essential part of a healthy community.”
The Record-Journal (Meriden, Connecticut) was awarded a grant from the Knight Foundation to expand their Latino Communities Reporting Lab with new staff and products to better serve these audiences; and to create a playbook for other newsrooms based on the community listening strategy the team used to develop its lab. The funding will also enable the Record-Journal to hire a dedicated development officer to build on its fundraising success.
“We are honored and thrilled to receive this grant from the Knight Foundation, which will help us build long-term sustainability for our Latino Communities Reporting Lab so we can continue to provide trusted local news and information for and with our local Latino audiences as well as fulfill our Lab’s mission to amplify the voices of our local Latino communities,” said Liz White, publisher of the Record-Journal.
Also in January, IndyStar in Indianapolis announced it had received full funding from Glick Philanthropies for its education reporting initiative. The funding covers the cost of IndyStar’s Report for America corps education reporter.
“To close access and achievement gaps in education, all community members must be informed of key issues and innovative solutions,” said Marianne Glick, chair of the Glick Family Foundation, in a written statement announcing the grant. “Stronger journalism — and journalism that’s not at risk of being cut due to a changing business model — creates a stronger community.”
“Philanthropy isn’t the solution to the newspaper industry’s woes, but it can offer stability as we work toward solutions for long-term sustainability,” said Holly Hays, who has now moved from her newsroom role to lead IndyStar’s development and funding efforts. “Beyond the financial aspect, these partnerships allow news organizations and funders — who often have overlapping, community-focused missions — to form stronger bonds that allow us to maximize our impact and inspire change to benefit our neighbors.”
Lessons for news outlets
These newsrooms have each completed LMA’s six-month program that trains news organizations on how to develop journalism projects that can be funded through philanthropy. The LMA Lab for Journalism Funding is free for news outlets thanks to continued support from Google News Initiative, and the RFA/LMA Sustainability Lab was run by LMA with support from Report for America.
Lupita Parra, now with MLK50, cited the one-on-one coaching she received in LMA’s fundraising lab as a key to funding success.
“My coach Joanne Heyman was incredible at asking me the right questions to help me arrive at compelling funder-facing language. Through her coaching, I learned to always peel back the layers of our reporting, projects and initiatives in order to clearly communicate track record, impact, and potential.”
A core principle of the LMA Lab for Journalism Funding is for newsrooms to begin not with a focus on their own interests and needs, but with engaging in authentic, strategic community listening to identify community needs and potential partners. Liz White called that community listening and engagement strategy “the foundation” for building the Record-Journal’s Latino Communities Reporting Lab.
“LMA’s teaching, coaching and support helped us build a successful fundraising model, which includes this important grant from the Knight Foundation to help us build long-term sustainability for our Latino Communities Reporting Lab,” White said.
Another core practice of the LMA Lab for Journalism Funding is to help newsrooms better tell the story of the value and impact of their journalism. We often point out that journalists are experts at telling the stories of others, but for too long we have taken for granted that the general public understands the ways in which a healthy local news ecosystem is a civic good.
“The lab gave us a challenging yet encouraging space for us to fine-tune our pitch, allowing us to mine our mission and history for examples that could inspire our neighbors and potential funders,” Hays said. “In a way, it was also a reminder for us of why we’re passionate about local journalism and why we’re going to do everything we can to keep at it.”
With these newest funding wins, the 70 newsrooms who went through the training in the LMA Lab for Journalism Funding since 2020 have now directly raised more than $14 million to support essential local reporting, thanks to continued support from Google News Initiative.
- Download and read our free 42-page industry report on fundraising best practices: Pathways to Philanthropy
- Learn more and get alerts about applying for future cohorts of the Lab for Journalism Funding
- Search for funders and funding opportunities on NewsFuel.org