The last month has been a difficult one for journalism in America. In a span of just two weeks roughly 2,000 journalists have lost their jobs or been offered buyouts. The nation’s six largest daily newspaper companies seem caught in a dangerous dance of consolidation and cost cutting. Even the Newseum, a museum dedicated to journalism, announced that it had to sell its landmark building down the street from the U.S. Capitol in January. All of this comes after a decade of struggle that has profoundly eroded journalism’s ability to serve local communities and live up to its role in our democracy.
However, there is another side to the story of journalism in America today.
New data from newsrooms all across the country shows that 2018 was a record-breaking year for community support of nonprofit news. Individual donors to journalism organizations gave more than $116 million in 2018, a 50 percent increase over 2017. In November and December alone, over 240,000 people gave to news organizations and more than 50,000 were new donors who supported a nonprofit newsroom for the first time.
This growth in giving to nonprofit journalism was fueled by an innovative national campaign called NewsMatch. Now in its third year, NewsMatch doubles donations to support quality journalism at the end of the year and provides expert training, individualized coaching and a campaign-in-a-box to grow the long term sustainability of local news and investigative journalism.
Over the last year, nonprofit journalists were a driving force for good, holding elected officials accountable, revealing injustice and waste, and shining a spotlight on public safety and health. NewsMatch members have provided critical reporting on family separation in Texas, covered coastal restoration in New Orleans, revealed patterns of abuses within New Mexico’s foster care system, and drove accountability through local reporting on #MeToo in Minnesota.
Fueling a New Era of Giving to News
- NewsMatch 2018 helped 154 newsrooms raise $7.6 million from individual donors and a coalition of foundations and companies making it the largest-ever grassroots fundraising campaign to support local news.
- Nonprofit news organizations are getting more successful at year-end fundraising. The average NewsMatch participant raised 11 percent more during the campaign in 2018 vs 2017.
- Small and medium-sized newsrooms saw the biggest growth in year-end support, with 30+ percent increases in individual donors, donations, and dollars raised during NewsMatch.
- NewsMatch was a platform for local philanthropy. Participants secured more than $675,000 in additional matching commitments from major donors and foundations during the campaign.
- In the three years since NewsMatch was first launched it has helped participating newsrooms raise more than $14 million.
Community Support Drives Community Impact
The dollars raised through NewsMatch will make sure that more stories like these can be told in 2019. The funds will go to hire more journalists, engage local communities, fight for access to government secrets, and ensure that more people have access to the information they need to live their lives and make decisions about their families and the nation.
NewsMatch 2018 supported 154 newsrooms in 42 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, with two-thirds of them focused on state or local journalism. All the participating organizations are members of the Institute for Nonprofit News (INN) which has guidelines about ethics, editorial independence and donor transparency. Ten years ago INN was founded by 27 nonprofit newsrooms and today the organization has more than 200 members. The remarkable growth of the nonprofit news sector — and the fact that the public is increasingly stepping up to support it — is an important counterbalance to the challenges facing journalism.
However, nonprofit news is still nowhere near filling the gaps left behind by the years of deep cuts in local and national journalism. Just this month, the Knight Commission on Trust Media and Democracy released its final report. The commission writes, “With traditional business and financial models for journalism under siege, major investments in and new approaches to supporting sustainable nonprofit and journalism collaborations are essential, particularly at the local level.”
Coming Together to Meet the Challenge
NewsMatch is answering that call by pioneering new approaches to supporting and strengthening local news and investigative reporting. The campaign created the first one-stop website where people can find and donate to multiple nonprofit newsrooms. The fund, which is housed at the Miami Foundation, is a unique platform for philanthropy, drawing support and collaboration from a diverse range of local, national and niche funders and companies including Democracy Fund, the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, the Facebook Journalism Project, the Gates Family Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Present Progressive Fund at Schwab Charitable, the Rita Allen Foundation, and the Wyncote Foundation. NewsMatch has created a simple on-ramp for funders who want to help rebuild journalism in America.
By combining philanthropic support with individual donations, NewsMatch focuses on not just raising money but also building the capacity of newsrooms to create durable and sustainable relationships with their audience. News Revenue Hub, a core partner of NewsMatch, provided more than 500 hours of training and consulting to newsrooms last year. Through templates, toolkits and technology tools the Hub provides newsrooms with proven models and best practices for cultivating donors and members.
That work doesn’t happen overnight. While we celebrate the remarkable progress and growth of NewsMatch in 2018 the team is already busy building the program for 2019. With the nonprofit news sector growing each year, NewsMatch needs to grow too and is currently recruiting new corporate and philanthropic partners who want to support the program. NewsMatch has also engaged Third Plateau, a social impact strategy firm, as an independent evaluation partner. A full evaluation of the program will be made available to the public this spring.
NewsMatch is helping build more trusted, sustainable local news and investigative reporting, but the real heroes here are the journalists and staff who work for nonprofit newsrooms all over the country. It is their work, their stories, their connection to community that makes NewsMatch possible. It is why NewsMatch exists, and how NewsMatch succeeds.