Miami is often center stage for critical issues in the country: Climate change. Immigration. The economy.
Now, local foundations are taking the lead in building the future of local news.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, based in Miami, is joining more than a dozen philanthropic donors in a more than $500 million five-year initiative, Press Forward, to expand and sustain local news across the country.
Led by the MacArthur Foundation, the initiative is not just looking to help existing and startup news outlets hire reporters to expand coverage in their communities. The initiative’s mission also will invest in ideas and technology to end inequalities and improve “diversity of experience and thought along with the availability of accurate and responsive news and information in underserved communities and economically challenged news deserts.”
“This is going to be one of the most important philanthropic collaborations of our generation,” said Miami Foundation President and CEO Rebecca Fishman Lipsey. The Miami Foundation will serve as the initiative’s fiscal pilot, managing a fund and coordinating grants. Grants are expected to become available in 2024.
Since 2005, about 2,200 local newspapers have closed, resulting in 20 percent of Americans living in “news deserts” with little to no coverage of local news and events. And the U.S. is on track to lose a third of its newspapers by 2025, according to a 2022 State of Local News report produced through the Medill School at Northwestern University.
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which is making a $150 million investment over the next five years to the Press Forward initiative, hopes the money will help local newsrooms find new ways to cover and share information with their communities.
Local news is “the key to an effectively functioning community in a democracy,” said Alberto Ibargüen, the Knight foundation president and former publisher of the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.
In addition to Knight’s Press Forward investment, the foundation has also committed to six new grants as part of its decade-long mission to support local news.
How philanthropy helps local journalism
Philanthrophic funding, along with subscriptions from loyal readers, has bolstered the reporting of dozens of news outlets, including McClatchy’s Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald, the Sacramento Bee, Fort Worth Star Telegram, Kansas City Star and the Charlotte Observer, as well as the Associated Press and New York Times.
“We have a moment to support the reimagination, revitalization, and rapid development of local news. We are prepared to support the strongest ideas and seed new ones; build powerful networks; and invest in people, organizations, and networks with substantial resources,” John Palfrey, president of the MacArthur Foundation and former Knight’s Board of Trustees chair, said in a statement. “The philanthropic sector recognizes the need to strengthen American democracy and is beginning to see that progress on every other issue, from education and healthcare to criminal justice reform and climate change, is dependent on the public’s understanding of the facts.”
For the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald, philanthropic funding has helped bolster coverage, while maintaining editorial control, in areas that include investigative journalism, climate change, faith and the visual arts. The Herald is raising money to hire a new economic mobility reporter to cover Miami’s affordability and wealth gap. (Contributions are tax-deductible thanks to partnerships with the Miami Foundation and Journalism Funding Partners.)
“At the Miami Herald / el Nuevo Herald, we constantly seek input from community members, asking which topics are most important to them. We then seek community support to expand our local independent coverage and keep those issues on top of the public agenda,” said Alex Mena, the executive editor of the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald. “We’re proud to collaborate with our diverse community to make South Florida a better place to live for all.”
▪ At the Herald, the Esserman Family Fund For Investigative Journalism is supporting two year-long fellowships for young investigative reporters.
▪ Two of the three Herald journalists covering climate change and resiliency in South Florida are supported by philanthropists that include The Lynn and Louis Wolfson II Foundation and the David and Christina Martin Family Foundation in collaboration with Florida International University.
▪ The Perez Family Foundation is supporting the Herald multimedia arts journalist who is covering South Florida’s vibrant arts community. Funders from the Jewish, Muslim and Christian faiths — including Trish and Dan Bell — have helped the Herald to once again cover the communities of faith in our community.
Who are the Press Forward funders?
Press Forward funders include Carnegie Corporation of New York, Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln, Democracy Fund, Ford Foundation, Mary W. Graham, Glen Nelson Center at American Public Media Group, Heising-Simons Foundation, Henry Luce Foundation, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Joyce Foundation, KFF, Knight Foundation, The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, Lumina Foundation, McKnight Foundation, Outrider Foundation, Rita Allen Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Skyline Foundation, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
How to help and donate to local news
▪ To learn more about the initiative and how you can help support local news, visit pressforward.news
▪ To support the Miami Herald’s award-winning independent journalism, consider subscribing or donating to the Herald’s Impact Journalism Fund at miamiherald.com/donate/.
This story was originally published September 7, 2023, 10:30 AM.