Press Forward, a coalition of 20 donors, form a national initiative to strengthen communities and democracy by supporting local news and information with an infusion of more than a half-billion dollars over the next five years. Press Forward will enhance local journalism at an unprecedented level to re-center local news as a force for community cohesion; support new models and solutions that are ready to scale; and close longstanding inequities in journalism coverage and practice. Read related press release.
The goal of Press Forward is to catalyze a local news renaissance that will reshape the local news landscape and re-center local journalism as a force for community cohesion, civic participation, and government accountability.
We seek to fund programs and organizations that will bolster democracy at the local level, support greater diversity in staff and coverage, be digital in orientation, develop long term sustainable models, and help drive demand for high quality local news and information necessary for every member of every community to thrive.
Simply put, our ambition is to raise significant new resources for local news, and significantly lower the transaction costs to both funders and grant seekers in the process.
We propose this ambitious, collaborative undertaking during a time of enormous volatility in the nation and the media. We expect to learn and adapt along the way. At the same time, this initiative will be grounded in a set of shared goals and values:
- Prioritize Transformation – We will invest in ideas that will have profound and lasting impact on the American media landscape and society. Both in what and how we fund, we will look for transformational opportunities and ways of working to shift past practices and outcomes.
- Center Community Needs – We will invest in the production and distribution of news and information that meets the information needs of local communities, getting as proximate as we can to listen and understand the unique needs of communities and strengthening the outlets that are closest to the ground and representative and trusted by the communities they serve.
- Ensure Equity and Access – We will close longstanding inequities in media ownership, practice, and philanthropy, and strive to provide reliable, fact-based journalism to the widest population regardless of economic, technological, language, literacy, and other barriers.
- Protect Independence – We will firmly promote and protect press freedom and editorial independence. Even as we push more philanthropic resources into news production, we will insist on editorial integrity, independence, and non-partisanship. This initiative will be independent of political ideology. It will, however, be grounded in respect for a shared set of facts in communities and will fund active pushback against mis- and disinformation in the media ecosystem.
While a handful of funders are getting ready to bring a few exemplary grants forward this summer and fall, we expect that most partners will be ready to fund organizations in Q4 of 2023 or Q1 of 2024. Grants from the pooled fund will likely come in early 2024.
Press Forward allows funders to engage financially in one of two ways. Funders can either contribute to a pooled fund (which will be housed at a nonprofit fiscal sponsor) or they may participate in aligned grantmaking.
The pooled fund is for funders who wish to make a one-time contribution and are motivated to contribute to “big” swings. We are currently in the final stages of selecting a fiscal sponsor for the pooled fund. Participants to this fund will develop a governance structure later this summer and formulate a plan for considering major investments.
The aligned grantmaking is for funders who have internal staff capacity (or limitations on what they can support, for instance climate funders who can only support climate journalism or regional/local foundations that have narrow geographic priorities) and prefer to retain maximum flexibility in which aligned grants they will pursue. Participants to this fund will meet regularly and have access to an online platform for sharing proposals, due diligence, and coordinating grants. We expect the majority of Press Forward partners to join through this option, which may involve grants, PRIs, and MRIs. Funders in the aligned category are free to pick and choose which investments they wish to join.
At this moment, we expect the larger foundation partners to participate in both the pooled fund and the aligned grantmaking. Both parts will be staffed by a small Press Forward team to be housed at the fiscal sponsor (funded by the pooled fund).