A number of organizations are trying to address this enormous gap. Democracy Fund centers equity throughout its Engaged Journalism strategy and Public Square Program. It was an early investor, along with Craig Newmark Philanthropies, the Ford Foundation, the Google News Initiative and CUNY’s News Integrity Initiative, in Borealis Philanthropy’s Racial Equity in Journalism Fund.
Last year, with funding from Ford, Democracy Fund, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Center for Community Media (CCM) at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY expanded into a national organization supporting news outlets across the country that provide essential coverage of people and issues underrepresented in the mainstream media. The Center houses separate initiatives focused on Black and Latino media as well as the Advertising Boost Initiative, which assists print and online outlets community media outlets in New York City to access a greater their share of city agencies’ advertising budgets.
The Lenfest Institute recently announced a slate of new programs and initiatives to support journalists and news organizations striving to build sustainable and equitable models of local news that meet the needs of Philadelphia communities, including a learning and grantmaking program, in partnership with the Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund, that will support Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) entrepreneurs launching or building news and information businesses serving Philadelphia-area communities.
The Local Media Association (LMA) has made sustainability for publishers of color one of its four strategic pillars, building capacity through its Digital Transformation Lab, the Fund for Black Journalism, and the Word In Black collaborative. And Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers through its Tiny News Collective is making critical support more accessible to first time founders that are underrepresented in the news landscape.
Perhaps the most ambitious venture is the one started by Tracie Powell, the founder of AllDigitocracy, co-chair of the National Association of Black Journalists, LION board member, and former manager of Borealis’ REJ Fund. In April, Powell launched The Pivot Fund, which seeks to invest $500 million into BIPOC-led news organizations that serve communities of color.
Powell, currently a Shorenstein Fellow at Harvard University, says BIPOC publishers have different needs and require tailored support. “Where traditional funders and organizations have fallen short is assuming a one-size-fits-all approach. They’ve also been mistaken about the need for digital transformation without first addressing organizational culture for BIPOC news outlets,” Powell said in an interview with Penny Riordan, LMA’s director of business strategy and partnerships. “Changing these mindsets will go a long way in course correction in how we support BIPOC news outlets.”