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Feb. 19, 2019, 5 a.m.
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“Rebuilding a local news ecosystem”: Knight pledges $300 million to local news, free speech, and media literacy organizations

Among the grantees: The American Journalism Project gets $20 million, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press gets $10 million, and The News Literacy Project gets $5 million. And there’s more, lots more.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation will provide a whopping $300 million over five years to organizations including the American Journalism Project, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, and and ProPublica, the foundation announced Tuesday.

The funding announcement follows the Knight Commission’s release earlier this month of a report outlining its recommendations for 21st-century journalism. With the $300 million pledge, Knight roughly doubles the amount of funding it commits to journalism on a yearly basis (that amount had averaged about $30 million a year over the last decade).

“Gone are the days when a single news organization had the resources to dominate local news coverage, or when multiple news organizations would enter fierce competition to ‘win’ on the same local story,” Knight folks wrote in their 2019 prediction for Nieman Lab. “In 2019, we’ll see an increase in multidisciplinary collaboration among sectors, institutions, and news organizations working to better serve local audiences.”

“We’re not funding one-offs,” Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation president, said in a statement. “We’re rebuilding a local news ecosystem, reliable and sustainable, and we’re doing it in a way that anyone who cares can participate.” The foundation called on “other funders and individuals across sectors” to participate as well. (Disclosure: Nieman Lab has received Knight funding in the past.)

The bulk of the funding is going to “national organizations working in partnership at the local level,” with the largest single grant — $20 million — going to American Journalism Project, a venture philanthropy organization cofounded by Chalkbeat CEO Elizabeth Green and Texas Tribune cofounder John Thornton that aims to provide grants and support to mission-driven local news nonprofits.

Other local news initiatives receiving funding:

ProPublica ($5 million): To advance partnerships with local news organizations to strengthen local investigative reporting, data-driven reporting and audience engagement. The support will also help expand ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network, allowing it to hire local reporters.

Report for America ($5 million): To expand the reach of Report for America, a national service program, help them place journalists in underserved local newsrooms across the country and train the next generation of journalists working in local news organizations. Report for America is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project.

Frontline ($3 million): To increase the scope and impact of Frontline’s high-quality documentaries and multimedia approach to reporting on local issues and establish up to five geographic hubs around the country involving partnerships with local newsrooms.

NewsMatch ($1.5 million): To support a national matching-gift campaign to grow fundraising capacity in nonprofit newsrooms and promote giving to journalism among U.S. donors. Launched by Knight Foundation in 2016, NewsMatch has grown with support from Democracy Fund, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and other foundations and corporations, and has helped nonprofit news organizations raise more than $14 million.

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press is receiving $10 million to help local newsrooms defend the First Amendment and hold decision-makers accountable,” and the Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund also gets a fresh $10 million.

Also receiving funding are three organizations focused on combating misinformation and building news literacy:

The News Literacy Project ($5 million): To expand the impact of a nonpartisan educational nonprofit that empowers educators to teach news literacy to middle and high school students. The organization will also bring its signature NewsLitCamps to several communities where Knight invests; the professional development program provides teachers and librarians with an introduction to news literacy, teaching resources and the opportunity to connect directly with journalists working in their communities.

Solutions Journalism Network ($5 million): To expand a model that advances community engagement and civic dialogue to produce rigorous reporting that highlights solutions, rather than problems. The initiative will help bring the Solutions Journalism Network to more communities, including those where Knight invests, and will encourage collaboration with newsrooms participating in the American Journalism Project.

Cortico ($2 million): To help journalists build trust by better understanding the communities they serve and the issues people care about. Cortico’s listening system — the Local Voices Network — uses machine learning to analyze online and offline community conversations. Cortico is a nonprofit created by leaders at the Lab for Social Machines at the MIT Media Lab.

Finally, Knight is “investing an additional $35 million in research to support the creation and expansion of research centers around the United States.”

You can find out more here.

Lego New York by JR Schmidt used under a Creative Commons license.

Laura Hazard Owen is the editor of Nieman Lab. You can reach her via email ( or Twitter DM (@laurahazardowen).
POSTED     Feb. 19, 2019, 5 a.m.
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