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Announcing a New Fund for Racial Equity in Journalism

By Lea Trusty / 2019 September 12th

Last year, Democracy Fund commissioned a study focused on philanthropic support of newsroom diversity. The findings revealed troubling disparities: Between 2009 and 2015, only 6% of the $1.2 billion in grants invested in journalism, news, and information in the United States went towards efforts serving specific racial and ethnic groups, and only 7% went towards efforts serving economically disadvantaged populations.

To begin addressing the longstanding gap in capital and resources for news entrepreneurs of color, we are helping launch the Racial Equity in Journalism Fund. It’s designed to support and build the capacity of newsrooms by and for people of color, who are best positioned to deliver critical news and information to their communities.

So far, the Fund has raised $3.6 million and will begin making grants in the first quarter of 2020. Donors include Craig Newmark Philanthropies, Democracy Fund, Ford Foundation, Google News Initiative, and the News Integrity Initiative at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY.

Maya Thornell-Sandifor, the director of Racial Equity Initiatives at Borealis Philanthropy, where the fund is hosted, explains why this initiative is meaningful:

“Media outlets led by and for people of color break stories and offer perspectives that are relevant to the communities they serve and inform the public dialogue in invaluable ways. Now more than ever, we need reporting that addresses the root causes of racial injustice and confronts racism with unflinching honesty and courage. This fund will strengthen the capacity of news organizations that prioritize building long-term relationships with communities of color, helping them expand their reach and impact.”

Journalism has long struggled to reflect the diversity of the communities it serves. However, throughout American history, media by and for people of color has played a critical role in informing, engaging and connecting communities who were left out or forced out of our national story. Over the last year, we have published three reports shining a spotlight on this history, and chronicling the role of American Indian, African American, and Hispanic media. While the entire media industry is struggling today, the economic challenges facing these publications are made all the more difficult by longstanding inequalities in access to funding.

Nikole Hannah-Jones, journalist at the New York Times Magazine and co-founder of the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting, explains why this work is so critical to our democracy:

“Media organizations led by people of color have long been a vanguard of our democracy, holding the powerful accountable for the ways it treats its most vulnerable citizens in ways mainstream media has often failed to do. It was organizations such as the black press that campaigned most vigorously to abolish slavery, to pass federal legislation against lynching, and to end Jim Crow, when mainstream media either ignored these stories altogether or sided with the powerful. Journalists of color consistently bring credibility and accuracy to the coverage of our multiracial democracy, yet media organizations led by and serving people of color consistently struggle to gain the types of resources that allow them to have a broad and sustained impact. We at the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting are excited to see how the fund will help to change that by providing pivotal support to these newsrooms at a time when their unique perspective and coverage is desperately needed.”

The Racial Equity in Journalism Fund launches today, but that is just the beginning. We know it will need to grow and expand to meet the needs and catalyze the opportunities we see in the field. We know a more representative industry is crucial to ensuring all communities have access to news with a broader, more accurate array of perspectives, and we hope the fund will serve as a meaningful step forward in closing the historic gap in funding for entrepreneurial journalists of color.

If you’re an outlet interested in receiving support from the fund, you can sign up here to receive forthcoming updates about the application process. And if you’re a funder interested in supporting this work, please contact Borealis Philanthropy’s Director of Racial Equity Initiatives, Maya Thornell-Sandifor: mtsandifor [at] borealisphilanthropy.org.

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