Giving Compass' Take:

• Josh Stearns explains why a strong fourth estate is essential to democracy and how foundations are working to build it.

• How has the fourth estate been eroded? Have any journalism outlets retained trust? 

• Find out how philanthropy can make an impact on journalism.

The United States needs a robust and aggressive fourth estate that is trusted by the American public, regardless of a person’s political viewpoint. We need a media that can stand up to attacks and provide a check on power for government and platforms. But we also need newsrooms that can help bring Americans together, inform our debates, and encourage respectful vibrant engagement in our communities.

The institutions, networks, and spaces where Americans engage critical issues facing our democracy are weathering a perfect storm of economic, technological, and social change. This shift is fundamentally reshaping how people access information — and the quality and quantity of the information they use to engage in civic life. To respond, we need to simultaneously reconfigure existing institutions and build new infrastructure to reimagine and rebuild the public square.

Through a number of new collaborations, funders across the journalism and civic engagement landscapes have been responding to these and other concerns. Democracy Fund and the Rita Allen Foundation joined the Knight Foundation’s Prototype Fund to support new ideas around trust and misinformation. The Hewlett Foundation mobilized seven other foundations (including Democracy Fund and Omidyar Network) to support the first ever independent research on Facebook’s influence on democracy using Facebook’s data via a novel data sharing agreement. In parallel, projects like the Trust Project, Project DATA, and First Draft News have combined support from philanthropy and platforms themselves to tackle aspects of this work.

Read the full article about democracy and a strong fourth estate by Josh Stearns at Medium.