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Journalism & Media

Our Goal

Working to strengthen American democracy by informing, engaging, and activating Americans through deep investments in just and inclusive news and narratives

Why We Support This Work

Despite abundant and growing sources of news and information, only a small percentage of journalism and media is created with an intention to engender deep understanding about current events; lift under-reported or misunderstood issues; include and amplify diverse perspective; promote self-reflection, empathy, and mutual respect; and inspire civic engagement and action. As a result and compounded by systemic social and economic disparities and a highly polarized political culture, large segments of the American public are misinformed, disengaged, and cynical about their role as civic actors and agents for social change. A small but growing community of nonprofit journalism and media organizations, supported by philanthropy and enabled by digital technologies, is working creatively and entrepreneurially to provide the American public with the information it needs for rigorous critical thinking and informed decision making and the opportunity and tools to share authentic and alternative perspectives for a robust civic dialogue. These organizations create and disseminate journalism and media content by professionals and citizens that is original, illuminating, and engaging, and they achieve a level of influence and impact disproportionate to their size and resources.

Our Journalism & Media program seeks to strengthen and sustain an independent media ecosystem that investigates the actions of institutions, explores the implications of policies, challenges social norms, amplifies diverse perspectives, and creates opportunities for individual action and public conversations on urgent contemporary issues.

Expected Outcomes

Through our grantmaking and non-grantmaking activities, we aim to achieve the following short-term outcomes in each of the three areas of media in which the Foundation works:

  • Strong and stable organizations and networks that anchor and lead their respective fields.
  • Increased dissemination and influence of grantee content, ideas, and programming.
  • Better preparedness for confronting legal, safety, and digital security threats.
  • More opportunities for diverse communities to access and produce relevant programming and content.
  • More knowledge and ideas generated and tested that enhance understanding of emerging issues within the fields we support.
  • Increased capacity and leadership of people in the fields we support.

These short-term outcomes are expected to create an enabling condition for:

  • Stronger and more dynamic networks of individuals and groups that engage for social change.
  • More supportive policies that protect independent voices and the free flow of information.
  • A more connected field where learning and innovation is nurtured and shared.

Ultimately, this work is aimed at contributing to the following long-term outcomes:

  • Americans are more informed, activated, and engaged.
  • Public and private institutions are more accountable to the public.
  • Public and cultural discourse is more fact-based and grounded in experience and expertise.

Measurement & Evaluation for Learning

Journalism and Media grantmaking works to strengthen American democracy by informing, engaging, and activating Americans through deep investments in just and inclusive news and narratives. We will assess how well the program has contributed to this goal by measuring the extent to which the independent media ecosystem: informs and facilitates public discourse, spurs and expands civic engagement, and increases the accountability of public and private institutions.

Documentary Films

The Journalism and Media Program is continuing MacArthur’s deep legacy of supporting thought-provoking social issue documentary films by expanding its 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. At the same time, the Foundation has supported and strengthened a number of 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, as a whole, 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 technologists 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 May 2020

Evaluation Contact
Joanna Cohen, Former Senior Evaluation Officer
Joanna Cohen
Former Senior Evaluation Officer
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