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June 20, 2018, 11:40 a.m.
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LINK: shorensteincenter.org  ➚   |   Posted by: Laura Hazard Owen   |   June 20, 2018

“Solid examples of groundbreaking funding efforts — ones that are both pioneering and effective”? We’ll take it! A Shorenstein Center/Media Impact Funders report out Wednesday looks at some recent interesting ways that funders and newsrooms are working together.

Here are a couple of examples:

— The LOR Foundation partnered with Solutions Journalism Network to figure out how people in the Intermountain West get their news. We wrote about that initiative in 2016, and it’s still going two years later:

Together, the organizations have enlisted 50 media outlets across the region, which have produced hundreds of news stories. Target outlets have migrated from northern New Mexico and southern Colorado to more northern states such as Montana and Idaho, covering a vast geographic spread. LOR and SJN are currently working on expanding the program in the coming year….

LOR is pleased with the impact SJN has had so far. “It’s working and we’re seeing the results,” [LOR’s chief communications officer LaMonte Guillory] said. “We’re even seeing newsrooms that declined to participate initially coming to us to join our efforts.” The most-read articles last year in the Intermountain West came directly from newsrooms participating in this collaboration, showcasing its reach.

— When reports of lead in the drinking water in Flint, Michigan surfaced, the Ford Foundation funded the hire of an investigative reporter at the ACLU of Michigan — “the first time a foundation grant was directed to the hiring of an investigative journalist based at a nonprofit advocacy organization. The result was the uncovering of a national scandal and the political upheaval that ensued.”

“The Ford Foundation folks and I were stuck, just going back and forth with each other on how to move forward, and no one was happy,” said Kary Moss, ACLU of Michigan’s executive director [she’s now a national director]. “Then it hit me. We needed an investigative reporter.” So executives asked the Ford Foundation for direct funding to hire acclaimed reporter Curt Guyette to conduct a broad investigation into Michigan’s emergency managers, and Ford program officers agreed immediately. The Ford Foundation decided to initially contribute $500,000 to the project, and in total, it ended up funding the ACLU of Michigan for $2.5 million from 2013-2017.

“By funding a journalist directly, what was created is an entirely new tool foundations can use in the future,” Ford’s Josh Cinelli said. “This collaboration created a two-pronged approach — one that promotes quality journalism as well as advocacy journalism.”

The full report, reported and edited by Dwight Knell, Nina Sachdev, and Jessica Clark, is here.

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