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Building a movement for trusted nonprofit journalism

Karen Rundlet is director for journalism at Knight Foundation. Below she writes about NewsMatch, the annual national matching gifts campaign for nonprofit news organizations, which is accepting donations today through Dec. 31.

Nov. 1, 2018


Photo credit: Sabrina Sanchez

This is the third year for NewsMatch, the national matching-gift campaign that supports nonprofit organizations across the country. The campaign’s participants, all of them nonprofit newsrooms, produce rigorous journalism in service of the public. It is in all of our interests to support them, now more than ever. As misinformation runs rampant, and trust in media fall to all-time lows, these organizations are delivering the investigative, accountability and civic reporting that highlight pressing community issues and hold our leaders in check. While the tools of information creation and delivery have changed dramatically in the last decade, there are some constants: quality journalism remains a powerful tool for change and a free and independent press is vital to a healthy democracy.

NewsMatch, a national multi-funder campaign, was designed to support a new group of nonprofit newsrooms that emerged almost 10 years ago. Back then, newspapers, already grappling with digital age demands, came head-to-head with the recession. They were forced to cut reporting staff and could no longer afford to finance lengthy journalistic investigations. At that time, there were just a couple dozen nonprofit newsrooms. In fact, it was just 27 nonpartisan nonprofit newsroom leaders who came together in 2009 to establish the Institute for Nonprofit News, a key partner in the NewsMatch program.

In 2018, NewsMatch will support a record 155 nonprofit newsrooms, all members of the Institute for Nonprofit News. Each organization is eligible to receive a total of $25,000 in matching funds for donations from individuals up to $1,000. The public can find and donate to these trusted, independent news organizations at newsmatch.org.

These newsrooms are covering civic issues from healthcare to housing to education. In the last year, ProPublica saved lives and changed laws with their coverage of maternal mortality, reporters at Centro de Periodismo Investigativo reported on the impact of Hurricane Maria in communities across Puerto Rico, and InvestigateWest’s reporting on problems with the foster care program in Washington state led to new laws and $48 million in funding to keep kids safe.

In the early days, digital nonprofit newsrooms were run by investigative reporters who believed the public service mission of journalism had to continue. But those same reporters-turned-publishers didn’t necessarily have all the skills to run a financially sustainable organization. Today, nonprofit newsroom leaders are using NewsMatch to strengthen their own capacity and learn the ins and outs of membership drives and community engagement from experts and top trainers. They are working to establish their permanent place within the news ecosystem. Every participating NewsMatch newsroom receives tools, education and coaching to develop their fundraising practices from the Institute for Nonprofit News and News Revenue Hub.

But this is an effort that involves more than just philanthropists and publishers. Community sits at the heart of the NewsMatch campaign. After all, the idea for NewsMatch was inspired by a surge in donations made by the public. Just after the national election in 2016, donors from all over the country sent in $10, $20 and sometimes hundreds of dollars to nonprofit journalism organizations, large and small. As a result of their commitment, in 2016 NewsMatch raised more than $2.5 million for nonprofit newsrooms, and last year the funding collaborative raised more than $4.8 million.

If I could speak directly to the people who can make NewsMatch an even greater success for nonprofit journalism this year, I’d say this.

To the public: We’re so grateful that you understand that reporting and journalism costs money to produce. Your consistent commitment to quality journalism creates stronger, more engaged communities. Give now and give often.

To funders: NewsMatch has inspired investments from family foundations, national funders, community foundations, and place-based philanthropic organizations of all kinds. If you haven’t supported it yet, you still can. You don’t have to have a journalism focus — we can work with you to support issue areas or geographic locations. Feel free to reach out.

To publishers: We commend you for strengthening journalism’s overall sustainability by focusing on your organization’s financial future. Do all that you can to bring attention to this important work.

The ask, this time, is not just to support a campaign but to build a larger movement that sustains factual nonpartisan reporting for communities. After all, journalism and informed communities sit at the heart of democratic engagement.

NewsMatch: Stand up for journalism that strengthens democracy.