Knight's Maribel Perez Wadsworth and Press Forward's Dale Anglin at the Knight Media Forum 2024. Photo by Eva Marie Uzcategui

A Letter to the Field: From Our New Director

By Dale R. Anglin

This week is my first as Press Forward’s director, a challenge I’m thrilled to take on. As I am settling in, I have been learning the finer details about Press Forward and wanted to share some perspective and a bit about where we are headed.

First, thank you for being patient as Press Forward has worked over the past six months to start hiring a team, build internal processes, and perhaps most importantly, to grow this coalition of enthusiastic supporters of local news. Always remember Press Forward was designed to allow a range of investments, so get used to hearing about the local chapters, the Pooled Fund and Aligned Grantmaking.

We now have more than 52 funders in our coalition and have nearly tripled the number of our local chapters to 17. In April, the Pooled Fund will open for applications from local news initiatives in one or more of our priority areas. Soon, local news organizations will be able to take the first step in applying by creating a Press Forward profile in our grantmaking platform. More details are forthcoming.  I’m thankful to our founding funders and The Miami Foundation, which houses Press Forward, for leading this work.

The gravity of this moment for local news is always present. We feel for every person and organization affected by the layoffs and worry about the damage the crisis will cause communities. At the same time, we see this moment as an opportunity for transformation, to reimagine a local news field that serves more people and communities, more deeply, by providing the information they want and need to live their lives.

Aligned funding : $54 million to the field and counting

Funding Opportunities | Aligned Grantmaking, Pooled Fund, and Press Forward Locals

With such a large coalition, we know it can be hard to see how the money is flowing into journalism and communities.  So, I wanted to shed some light on our Aligned Grantmaking, an integral part of Press Forward that has so far invested $54 million in local news efforts.

When we launched in September, Press Forward announced $500 million in commitments to strengthen communities through local news. What was not always clear to the field is that the bulk of that funding will be invested through Aligned Grantmaking, where our coalition members give directly and independently to local news organizations and initiatives. Press Forward is working behind the scenes to help those funders share the news of their investments and help aligned funders learn from one another and encourage increased giving to local news.

Our partners have committed to funding in our four priority areas – supporting sustainability, equity, policy and infrastructure in local news.  When it comes to sustainability and equity, a group of funders, for example, have invested in a range of newsrooms that are meeting their audience where they are – on WhatsApp and via other messaging services. Several like Conecta Arizona and Enlace NC are largely serving Spanish-speaking communities this way, though others are providing news in English and Spanish as well as other languages, including Creole and Chinese (Documented and Mam, an indigenous Mayan language (El Tímpano.) You can read more about these outlets and their impact on our blog.

Claudia Rivera, political and immigration reporter at Enlace NC, helps a woman subscribe to WhatsApp during a community listening session. (Photo courtesy ELNC)

We’ve also seen our Aligned Grantmaking partners invest in the infrastructure for news, by supporting URL Media, which acts as a decentralized network for Black and Brown news organizations to share content and expand their reach and revenue.  Visuals in local news has also been an area of investment, with funding going to Catchlight for photo and the Video Consortium for video support.

Policy is also a key area for Press Forward, and partners have given directly to Free Press and Rebuild Local News, two organizations dedicated to advancing public policy that expands access to local news and civic information.

We will continue to share the stories of these investments and their impact.

Working together to find solutions

One of the things I find most promising about Press Forward is how funders are working together to find solutions. We now have several working groups, where funders gather around topics like climate change, public policy, and public media to exchange ideas and insights, so we can learn emerging best practices together. This is especially helpful as we bring on funders who are new to journalism and are beginning to learn effective ways to have an impact in the field.

Reflecting on my time at the Knight Media Forum just a month ago, I welcomed being surrounded by local newsrooms led by a new generation of leaders, and experiencing the enthusiasm from place-based funders hungry for shared movement to reimagine the field.  I thank all of you who have already reached out to lend your support and/or learn more. As Knight Foundation President and CEO Maribel Pérez Wadsworth said during the opening session, “the time to act is here. The time to bring vital dollars off the sidelines and into the battle is right now.”

I take this as my challenge, to continue to grow the coalition of the enthusiastic, working to strengthen our communities through local news. My team will work over the next few months to talk and meet as many of you as possible and share investment news and strategies.  But we don’t assume we have all the answers.

To my fellow funders and donors, we welcome your support in forming local chapters, and sharing investment strategies and messages that will resonate with fellow donors and partners about how important local news is to a healthy democracy.

To the local news ecosystem, we welcome your stories and thoughts on how local news has directly affected communities and ask you to identify partners in your communities who you can be working with right now to share your best practices with as you adapt to a changing news and business landscape.

I thank you all for your commitment to this ecosystem and welcome your partnership as we all work together to support a healthy democracy through local news.

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