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Reconstructing American News

The Challenge

What do we want the media to look like in 50 years? How will it serve all communities in the United States and around the world? How can we connect the dots on race, class, disability, and gender to create a coherent, truly representative more accurate shared narrative?

And what role can funders play to help build a more equitable media for the future?

As the novel coronavirus pandemic upends life, work, and ways of sharing information, equity-focused news organizations are bright lights in the journalism world. We’re seeing examples of fresh thinking that combine innovation with equity to create meaningful change. However, news innovators and entrepreneurs are often doing their work with limited resources—even fewer than their already struggling counterparts in legacy
news organizations.

Up until this point, much of the focus for funders in this space has been on supporting innovation in products and platforms. It’s now paramount to resource new people, processes, and power relations. We need to support ways of achieving media equity goals through experimentation and iteration in both content and business models. And we need to do more than remediate old problems: we must create an equitable future.

 

What’s in the Report

Reconstructing American News
Conducted on behalf of the Ford Foundation by Dot Connector Studio, Reconstructing American News is a first step towards outlining what those of us who fund journalism and helm newsrooms can do to create a more inclusive and sustainable media industry. The analysis ties together two years of internal research and recent interviews with individuals, from entrepreneurs to leaders of large nonprofit newsrooms, to understand how these innovators are driving change and surviving the impacts of the pandemic. It investigates overlapping topics of equity in news, changing journalism business models in a period of rapid disruption, and responsive philanthropic strategies to address the many intersecting problems that currently exist in the industry.

Gender Equity in the News Media

Conducted by Ariel Skeath, a master of public policy candidate, and Lisa Macpherson, a fellow of the Advanced Leadership Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Gender Equity in the News Media takes a deep dive into gender inequity in the current media landscape. They wrote this paper in 2019, more than a year into the explosion of the #MeToo movement, to identify remedies for addressing gender inequity in newsrooms as it relates to abuse and the less visible but still corrosive effects of discrimination and bias.

Investing in Equitable News and Media Projects

Conducted by Transform Finance, Investing in Equitable News and Media Projects analyzes the types of financial support needed to create a truly equitable media landscape. Equitable media is an essential component of vibrant and inclusive societies, but that recognition has not been matched by efforts to sustain it and enable it to thrive. Based on data, reflections and ideas from grantmakers, private investors, and media entrepreneurs collected in late 2019, it offers an in-depth look at the historic underinvestment in equitable media and how to determine the path forward.

In publishing these reports, we aim to serve as a resource for others in the field grappling with the same issues.

Please note: we are in the process of updating past studies, so they are fully accessible for all readers. Reconstructing American News is currently fully accessible and we are in the process of updating Gender Equity in News Media and Investing in Equitable News and Media Projects.