As philanthropic support of news organizations has increased substantially, Journalism Funding Partners (JFP) was founded to bring more funding sources and news organizations together to support and report on the issues impacting local communities.
“If funders care about critical issues, they must also care about local news. If local news can’t cover those issues, then no one knows funders’ particular missions or whether they’re accomplishing them,” said Rusty Coats, executive director of Journalism Funding Partners.
Coats said most of his job is acting as a firewall between funders and news outlets. He oversees the necessary governance and accountability required by law and monitors newsrooms so funded journalists spend most of their time reporting on the specified issue.
“Neither I nor the funders have control over who is hired for a funded position as well as the editorial process. We have a quarterly virtual meeting with the funder and the news organization to review the stories published during the previous quarter. They’ve all been enjoyable, celebratory meetings because everyone recognizes the reporter’s work is impacting the community,” Coats said.
An example is funding from the Freedom Forum for Angele Latham to become the First Amendment reporter for The Tennessean. A Freedom Forum national survey found Tennessee and Hawaii had the lowest scores for appreciation and understanding of the First Amendment.
“Angele worked at the Jackson Sun in Jackson, Tennessee, part of the USA TODAY Network. She knows the state and was raised in rural Tennessee. She has established street cred, which helps her report on a topic of great interest to Tennesseans of all political persuasions,” Michael Anastasi, editor of The Tennessean and South Regional editor for USA TODAY.
“I made a presentation to the Freedom Forum and JFP boards recently about what we’ve already achieved with Angele’s First Amendment reporting. The Forum will fund a second First Amendment position in the USA TODAY Network in Tallahassee, Florida.”
JFP also has worked closely with McClatchy newspapers to secure funding for various reporter positions. The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald, the Spanish-language partner publication, received funding from local Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups and individual donors to resume coverage of religion and communities of faith in South Florida. JFP managed the funding process.
JFP managed additional funding from the James B. McClatchy Foundation to create SacSchoolBeat.com. It identifies student reporters and teaches them how to report in high schools in underserved communities.
“All of McClatchy’s newsrooms have partnered with JFP in one way or another. Several have used JFP as a fiscal sponsor to support nonprofit philanthropic partnerships that directly fund expanded capacity for local journalism in our communities. JFP also supports our annual fundraising drive, which connects readers who want to help support local journalism in their community with targeted opportunities to do so,” Robyn Tomlin, chief news officer at McClatchy, said.
According to Coats, JFP disbursed $2.2 million in funds in 2022 and has provided more than $1 million during the first quarter of 2023 to news organizations.
“I invite any newspapers to contact me directly by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information about Journalism Funding Partners. They will likely know some of the news organizations we work with, and they will gladly share their funding experience,” Coats said.
Bob Sillick has held many senior positions and served a myriad of clients during his 47 years in marketing and advertising. He has been a freelance/contract content researcher, writer, editor and manager since 2010. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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