Journalism & Media Grant Guidelines


The Journalism and Media program seeks to promote and amplify just and inclusive news and narratives, based on the belief that accurate and compelling media plays an important role in informing, engaging, and activating individuals and groups to take part in democratic practices and processes. 

To build and strengthen organizations creating and disseminating just, accurate, and inclusive news and narratives, the program supports work in three areas:

  • Professional Nonprofit Reporting
  • Nonfiction Multimedia Storytelling
  • Participatory Civic Media

In each of the three areas, the program pursues the following objectives:

  • Build strong, independent, and sustainable organizations and networks that anchor a resilient and independent media ecosystem designed to meet the needs of a diverse democratic society.
  • Address barriers that limit the creation of, access to, or participation in media activities, including the legal, safety, digital security, and technological challenges facing organizations and individuals.
  • Promote learning, leadership, innovation, and field-building opportunities that explore timely and emerging issues related to the production, dissemination, and engagement with journalism and media.

Our Journalism and Media program supports U.S.-based nonprofit institutions with national reach and influence. In a few cases, we support regional and place-based organizations that are exemplars in their fields and provide a model for others to replicate. 

We also support journalism and media in Chicago, where the Foundation is located, and in 2021, in partnership with MacArthur’s Technology in the Public Interest Program, we began supporting a small portfolio of organizations and activities focused on combatting racialized disinformation and conspiracy.

While we are not accepting unsolicited proposals at this time, contact us to share new ideas and perspectives.


What We Fund

Professional Nonprofit Reporting

We fund the following types of organizations:

  • U.S.-based nonprofit journalism organizations that pursue explanatory, enterprise, investigative, and/or international reporting primarily for American audiences.
  • National organizations that work to protect press freedom and address the safety and security challenges facing journalists.
  • Organizations that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts within the journalism sector and/or provide professional development and support systems for journalists of color.
  • Organizations and activities that support the infrastructure for and contribute to learning and innovation in the field of nonprofit journalism.

Nonfiction Multimedia Storytelling

We fund the following types of organizations:

  • National and regional organizations that fund, produce, and/or disseminate artfully crafted independent nonfiction multimedia stories on contemporary social issues for broadcast, web, and mobile.
  • National and regional organizations that provide training, mentorship, and support to diverse nonfiction multimedia creators at all stages of their careers.
  • Organizations and activities that support the infrastructure for and contribute to learning and innovation in the field of nonfiction multimedia storytelling, including new forms of media, and explorations of practices that lead to greater accountability.

Participatory Civic Media

We fund the following types of organizations:

  • National organizations that mobilize and support individuals and groups to use participatory media practices and platforms to express and organize themselves for social change.
  • National, regional, and local organizations that identify, train, and encourage individuals and groups, particularly from historically underrepresented communities, to engage in civic media activities.
  • Organizations and activities that support the infrastructure for and contribute to learning and innovation in the use of participatory media practices for social change.

Journalism & Media in Chicago

In 2016, we launched the Jack Fuller Legacy Initiative to bring the national Journalism and Media program “to ground” in our hometown of Chicago. The goal of the initiative is to support and amplify the outstanding work of Chicago media organizations whose aims and approaches align with the program’s goal of supporting just and inclusive news and narratives. Much of this work is conducted in partnership with the Field Foundation of Illinois through its Media and Storytelling Program, which MacArthur and Field launched together in 2018.

This Media and Storytelling Program aims to support journalists and storytellers from Chicago communities whose insights are underrepresented in the broader media field. It provides general operating and project-based funding to community-based organizations and individuals working to generate just and inclusive narratives through the work of accountability, investigative and explanatory journalism, and through creative nonfiction projects targeted at narrative and culture change.

MacArthur provides $1 million per year for this program. 

We also make a limited number of direct grants to Chicago-based organizations meeting one of three conditions:

  • The organization and/or its projects or approaches have a national reach and provide a replicable model for local journalism elsewhere.
  • The entire ecosystem or a large part of the ecosystem will benefit from the project or activity.
  • A targeted investment will have a catalytic impact on the organization.

Learn more about the media and storytelling organizations we have supported.

Combating Disinformation at the Local Level

In 2022, in response to the rising concerns about the spread of disinformation and conspiracy in online spaces, we launched a small exploratory grantmaking effort to combat the spread of disinformation and conspiracy at the local level. We have a special focus on supporting the most marginalized communities—immigrants, people of color, the rural poor, and LGBTQ+—that overwhelmingly bear the biggest burden and suffer the most severe consequences as a result of our new, platform-centric media environment.

Grants made through this exploratory grantmaking effort are aimed at:

  • uncovering, analyzing, and documenting disinformation at the community level;
  • increasing the capacity of trusted local news and information sources to inform and educate the public about localized disinformation;
  • responding in real-time to disinformation crises; and
  • sharing insights and successful community-based interventions and practices to inform research, policy and practice at the state, national, and global levels.

This grantmaking is done in collaboration with MacArthur’s Technology in the Public Interest program.

Local News Big Bet

Grantmaking guidelines for a new Local News Big Bet program, are currently being developed. This new program, which includes Press Forward, a funder collaborative that aims to mobilize significant resources for local news around the United States, will be in addition to the Journalism and Media strategy (as detailed). We invite you to follow Press Forward’s work and sign up for the Foundation’s emails to be updated on our Local News program when opportunities to engage with this work are available.

Documentary Film

The Journalism and Media Program continues MacArthur’s deep legacy of supporting thought-provoking social issue documentary films through support of national and regional organizations that serve emerging to experienced nonfiction multimedia storytellers.

Since the mid-eighties, MacArthur has supported over 300 documentary projects: a cumulative investment of $50 million. View a list of documentary film projects supported through previous open calls. The Foundation has supported and strengthened several partner organizations that provide more comprehensive support to filmmakers, from production funding, editorial advice, and professional mentorship, to broadcast, distribution, and public engagement. 

Today, the Journalism and Media program supports documentary filmmakers and nonfiction media producers exclusively through partner organizations. These organizations support hundreds of filmmakers each year and help to diversify the field and raise the artistic achievement and social impact of documentary storytelling.

Please note: The Foundation no longer accepts applications for individual documentary projects.

Filmmakers currently seeking production funds are encouraged to explore the funding opportunities offered by MacArthur’s partner organizations. These organizations deploy MacArthur resources in a way that allows many more filmmakers, artists, and journalists to find the support they need to tell stories that inform, engage, and compel viewers to make changes in themselves or their communities for a more just, verdant, and peaceful society.

Current partners:


Updated June 2023

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