Since its inception, the Knight Media Forum has focused on bringing together place-based foundations to strengthen local news around the country. And as the challenges for publishers have grown during the pandemic, support from local foundations, donors and even tech platforms has been a positive light during dark times.

This year’s forum, which took place online from March 2 to 4, shone a spotlight not only on the many challenges for local news, but on the growing solutions, case studies and trends that could open up a path forward. For example, the Seattle Times has created a series of philanthropy-supported labs that now fund 17 reporters in the newsroom. Microsoft has stepped up to provide funding and tech support for local news in five diverse communities. Report for America and the Local Media Association brought in a harvest of philanthropic dollars to for-profit newsrooms – including many in communities of color – for the first time.

And communities have a new resource from Impact Architects to help them gauge the health of their local news ecosystem. Understanding the current situation can help funders and other key stakeholders as they try to bring reliable, trusted information back to news deserts.

During the virtual sessions, many people in the audience asked whether funders would support for-profit news outlets as well as nonprofit. In the past, most foundations would only support nonprofits, so it’s a more recent phenomenon of commercial publications receiving philanthropic support. The answer was largely that funders aren’t as focused on the business model or IRS tax status of local publishers as long as they have a civic-minded mission.
In a breakout session titled “Case Studies: Community Foundations and Local Journalism,” Joaquin Alvarado and Michele Matassa Flores talked about their years-long effort to create labs at the Seattle Times that gave funders a way to support coverage of education, homelessness and more. In a year with so many stories to cover, the labs helped the Times keep up.

Read the full article about support for newsrooms beyond the pandemic by Mark Glaser at Knight Foundation.