Knight Foundation makes $300 million investment to strengthen local news, accountability

With newsrooms across the country facing declining revenues and significant staff reductions, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation said it will invest $300 million over five years to bolster investigative news organizations, fund groups that defend the First Amendment and bankroll initiatives that counter fake news and educate the consumer about accurate, authoritative reporting.

The foundation is doubling its investment in journalism, which it says is a cornerstone of democracy.

“Without revenue, you can’t pay reporters. Without reporters, you can’t develop consistently reliable news reports about what’s happening in your town. Without that reliable news report, you can’t figure out how to run local government. It isn’t rocket science,” said Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation president, in a news release. “We’re not funding one-offs. We’re helping to rebuild a local news ecosystem, reliable and sustainable, and we’re doing it in a way that anyone who cares can participate.”

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Alberto Ibargüen

The announcement follows a wave of layoffs recently in several media organizations.

Earlier this month, the Knight Foundation along with the Aspen Institute released a report, dubbed Crisis in Democracy: Renewing Trust in America, which looks at ways of rebuilding the media. Recommendations include strengthening local news by building “viable nonprofit” organizations and promoting collaborations.

“Reliable news and information are essential for people to make democracy work,” said Jennifer Preston, Knight Foundation vice president for journalism, in a news release. “By investing in projects and people with bold ideas, Knight and others who care about journalism and democracy have the opportunity to reverse years of declining trust and revenues and help build a sustainable future for local news and information in the 21st century.”

Here’s a sampling of organizations that will receive some of the $300 million:

American Journalism Project: The new philanthropy initiative will receive $20 million to provide grants and support local, nonprofit civic news organizations to help make them sustainable for the long term.

ProPublica: The nonprofit organization that aims to strengthen local investigative reporting, data-driven reporting and audience engagement will receive $5 million. The money will also help expand ProPublica’s Local Reporting Network, allowing it to hire local reporters. ProPublica, working with the N.Y. Daily News, won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in the Public Service category for “widespread abuse of eviction rules by the police to oust hundreds of people, most of them poor minorities.”

The Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund: A partnership with the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, which will receive $10 million, to digitally transform local news organizations.

Report for America: A national service program that places journalists in underserved local newsrooms across the country will receive $5 million. Report for America is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project.

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press: The committee will receive $10 million to help local newsrooms defend the First Amendment and hold decision-makers accountable.

The News Literacy Project: The nonpartisan educational nonprofit will receive $5 million to help educators teach news literacy to middle and high school students.

To learn more on how to get involved in the initiative and support the rebuilding of local news visit: kf.org/localnews.