Philanthropists galvanize around news

“Foundations should provide operating and project support with few or no strings attached.”

2017 is the year that philanthropy stops asking, “Why should we fund news and information?” and starts asking, “How do we get started?”

For years, funders have averted their eyes from the alarming loss of journalism jobs and coverage of local and state issues. This presidential election made it virtually impossible for them to ignore it any longer.

The Geraldine R Dodge FoundationIn the swirl of confusion and fear about fake news, echo chambers, and threats to press freedom, funders are now grasping the consequences to our communities when there are no journalists covering city council meetings or providing substantive statehouse reporting to keep elected officials accountable. Weeks away from the inauguration, foundations are waking up to the reality that this major transition of power will likely impact the issue areas they support, and that they can’t achieve their longterm objectives as long as the public is starved for relevant, reliable information about those issues.

Funders will be tempted to make grants that, in effect, seek to buy coverage in order to promote their agendas, by offering to fund beats or specific investigations, requesting editorial review and enacting quotas for stories written. But this would be disastrous to an already divided society, sowing further distrust for both philanthropy and journalism. Instead, philanthropy should focus on infrastructure: supporting a broad array of organizations — newsrooms, libraries, and civic tech organizations, as well as projects that promote open data and transparent government — that will strengthen news ecosystems across the country and give people access to information they crave.

Foundations should provide operating and project support with few or no strings attached. Additionally, they should give dollars that help newsrooms and other community-based nonprofits take creative risks, explore new revenue streams, and collaborate with partners. Doing so provides organizations the stable support they need while also empowering them to experiment, learn, and adapt to a changing landscape. Funding infrastructure also insulates philanthropy from accusations of deliberately influencing coverage.

There is no quick, easy fix to rebuilding capacity for news and information organizations or cultivating constructive dialogue and solutions for pressing issues; it will require sustained philanthropic investment and patience. But the opportunity here is immense. Journalists and their community-based partners can become the superheroes people desperately need right now: promoting understanding among neighbors; empowering people to participate in important local decisions; holding elected officials accountable; amplifying the voices and ideas that are never heard; and restoring the public’s trust in institutions. And fortunately, there are good models to turn to — thoughtful and creative leaders in the field demonstrating how people-powered journalism can act as a bulwark against fear, hate, and apathy.

Philanthropy has been too slow to value news and information organizations as community anchors. They have viewed media funding as a program area unto itself (one that they have not been particularly interested in), rather than a vital pathway for helping people discuss, understand, and engage with urgent issues. 2017 is the year this changes. Funders will make a bold longterm commitment to strengthening news and information ecosystems, recognizing it as a systemic way to inform, engage, and improve our communities and people’s lives.

Molly de Aguiar is the program director for informed communities at the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation.

Vivian Schiller   Tested like never before

S.P. Sullivan   Baking transparency into our routines

Gabriel Snyder   The aberration of 20th-century journalism

Mira Lowe   News literacy, bias, and “Hamilton”

Trushar Barot   API or die

David Chavern   Fake news gets solved

Andrew Ramsammy   Rise of the rebel journalist

Laura Walker   Authentic voices, not fake news

David Weigel   A test for online speech

Andrew Haeg   The year of listening

Liz McMillen   The year of deep insights

Dan Gillmor   Fix the demand side of news too

Lam Thuy Vo   The primary source in the age of mechanical multiplication

Ken Schwencke   Disaggregation and collection

Jonathan Hunt   Measurement companies get with the times

Francesco Marconi   The year of augmented writing

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-checking bot

Reyhan Harmanci   Bear witness — but then what?

Emi Kolawole   From empathy to community

Olivia Ma   The year collaboration beats competition

Alexis Lloyd   Public trust for private realities

Mario García   Virtual reality on mobile leaps forward

Margarita Noriega   From pinning tweets to tweeting pins

Ryan McCarthy   Platforms grow up or grow more toxic

Coleen O'Lear   Back to basics

Katie Zhu   The year of minority media

Michael Kuntz   Trust is the new click

Geetika Rudra   Journalism is community

Ariane Bernard   Better data about your users

Renée Kaplan   Pure reach has reached its limit

Alberto Cairo   Communicating uncertainty to our readers

Sarah Marshall   Focusing on the why of the click

Maria Bustillos   “It’s true — I saw it on Facebook”

Cory Haik   Navigating power in Trump’s America

Corey Ford   The year of the rebelpreneur

Helen Havlak   Chasing mobile search results

Erin Millar   The bottom falls out of Canadian media

Sydette Harry   Facing journalism’s history

Dannagal G. Young   The return of the gatekeepers

Felix Salmon   Headlines matter

Laura E. Davis   Show your work

Sam Ford   The year we talk about our awful metrics

Ole Reißmann   Un-faking the news

Tim Griggs   The year we stop taking sides

Matt Karolian   AI improves publishing

Ray Soto   VR moves from experiments to immersion

Dan Colarusso   Let’s make live video we can love

Robert Hernandez   History will exclude you, again

Doris Truong   Connecting with diverse perspectives

Cindy Royal   Preparing the digital educator-scholar hybrid

Amie Ferris-Rotman   Вслед за Россией

Dhiya Kuriakose   The year of digital detoxing

Ståle Grut   The battle for high-quality VR

Nushin Rashidian   A rise in high-price, high-value subscriptions

Kawandeep Virdee   Moving deeper than the machine of clicks

Ashley C. Woods   Local journalism will fight a new fight

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   News after advertising may look like news before advertising

Mandy Velez   The audience is the source and the story

Mary Walter-Brown   Getting comfortable asking for money

Joanne Lipman   The year of the drone, really

Mike Ragsdale   A smarter information diet

David Skok   What lies beyond paywalls

Mary Meehan   Feeling blue in a red state

Burt Herman   Local news gets interesting

Rachel Sklar   Women are going to get loud

Bill Keller   A healthy skepticism about data

Megan H. Chan   Cultural reporting goes mainstream

Jim Friedlich   A banner year for venture philanthropy

Pablo Boczkowski   Fake news and the future of journalism

Rachel Schallom   Stop flying over the flyover states

Javaun Moradi   What can we own?

Emily Goligoski   Incorporating audience feedback at scale

Juliette De Maeyer and Dominique Trudel   A rebirth of populist journalism

Adam Thomas   The coming collaboration across Europe

Caitlin Thompson   High touch, high value

Julia Beizer   Building a coherent core identity

Libby Bawcombe   Kids board the podcast train

Guy Raz   Inspiration and hope will matter more than ever

Priya Ganapati   Mobile websites are ready for reinvention

Scott Dodd   Nonprofits team up for impact

Andrea Silenzi   Podcasts dive into breaking news analysis

Nicholas Quah   Podcasting’s coming class war

Richard J. Tofel   The country doesn’t trust us — but they do believe us

Umbreen Bhatti   A sense of journalists’ humanity

Jon Slade   Trusted news, at a premium

Zizi Papacharissi   Distracted journalism looks in the mirror

Tressie McMillan Cottom   A path through the media’s coming legitimacy crisis

Samantha Barry   Messaging apps go mainstream

Hillary Frey   Forests need to burn to regrow

Liz Danzico   The triumph of the small

Amy Webb   Journalism as a service

Elizabeth Jensen   Trust depends on the details

Tim Herrera   The safe space of service journalism

Carrie Brown-Smith   We won’t do enough

Annemarie Dooling   UGC as a path out of the bubble

Tanya Cordrey   The resurgence of reach

Tracie Powell   Building reader relationships

Sarah Wolozin   Virtual reality on the open web

An Xiao Mina   2017 is for the attention innovators

Keren Goldshlager   Defining a focus, and then saying no

M. Scott Havens   Quality advertising to pair with quality content

Jeremy Barr   A terrible year for Tiers B through D

Claire Wardle   Verification takes center stage

Sara M. Watson   There is no neutral interface

Rubina Madan Fillion   Snapchat grows up

Asma Khalid   The year of the newsy podcast

Mark Armstrong   Time to pay up

Nathalie Malinarich   Making it easy

Lee Glendinning   A call for great editing

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Truthiness in private spaces

Swati Sharma   Failing diversity is failing journalism

Michael Oreskes   Reversing the erosion of democracy

Taylor Lorenz   “Selfie journalism” becomes a thing

Sue Schardt   Objectivity, fairness, balance, and love

Anita Zielina   The sales funnel reaches (and changes) the newsroom

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting stratifies into hard layers

Errin Haines Whack   Chaos or community?

Moreno Cruz Osório   The year of transparency in Brazilian journalism

Steve Henn   The next revolution is voice

Rebekah Monson   Journalism is community-as-a-service

Molly de Aguiar   Philanthropists galvanize around news

Juan Luis Sánchez   Your predictions are our present

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Earn trust by working for (and with) readers

Andy Rossback   The year of the user

Almar Latour   Thanks, #fakenews

Christopher Meighan   Unlocking a deeper mobile experience

P. Kim Bui   The year journalism teaches again

Matt Waite   The people running the media are the problem

Mathew Ingram   The Faustian Facebook dance continues

Aja Bogdanoff   Comments start pulling their weight

Andrew Losowsky   Building our own communities

Millie Tran   International expansion without colonial overtones

Carla Zanoni   Prioritizing emotional health

Erin Pettigrew   A year of reflection in tech

Kathleen Kingsbury   Print as a premium offering

Peter Sterne   A dangerous anti-press mix

Alice Antheaume   A new test for French media

Jonathan Stray   A boom in responsible conservative media

Melody Kramer   Radically rethinking design

Amy O'Leary   Not just covering communities, reaching them