Philanthropic foundations are taking unprecedented steps to address the crisis in journalism and “serve as a firewall against the disappearance of critical news and information,” according to a new report from the Center on Communication Leadership & Policy (CCLP) at the University of Southern California‘s Annenberg School for Communication.
The report, Philanthropic Foundations: Growing Funders of the News is authored by David Westphal, a CCLP senior fellow and former Washington editor for McClatchy Newspapers.
Leaders from philanthropic foundations, journalism, education and non-profit organizations were interviewed for the report, which follows up on a major meeting convened in 2008 by Geoffrey Cowan, dean emeritus of the USC Annenberg School and CCLP director, Alex Jones, director of the Shorenstein Center at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and Orville Schell, former dean of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism and a CCLP senior fellow.
“When we had the meeting last year, we saw a need,” says Cowan. “But now we’re in a state of desperation. The collapse of the traditional economic model has increased both the need for nonprofit journalism, and also the receptivity toward it.”
“I think it’s safe to say there’s a growing understanding you can’t run a democracy without a free flow of information,” says Alberto Ibargüen, president and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, who attended the 2008 meeting and was interviewed for the report. He cites growing interest of community foundations in supporting journalism as an important development.
“We’re extremely excited about the possibilities here,” he says. “Community foundations have billions and billions at their disposal. We think more and more of them are going to find that information has become one of their community’s core needs.”
Westphal will present research from this report, along with early findings from a new Carnegie Corporation-sponsored study on the role of government in supporting news and information, at the annual convention of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in Boston in August.
CCLP will explore related developments, including philanthropic support for ethnic news media, as part of its ongoing research agenda.