November 3, 2023 – A growing coalition of funders today announced the next phase of their plan to strengthen local news at an unprecedented level: Press Forward Locals. A network of local chapters across the country—starting in Alaska; Chicago; Minnesota; Philadelphia; Springfield, Illinois; and Wichita—are springing up as funders are coordinating or collaborating across states and regions to bring new donors and foundations together to expand resources for local news.
Trust begins close to home.
As local newsrooms have disappeared across America, communities have witnessed fading civic engagement, eroding social bonds, surging misinformation, and dwindling governmental accountability. Over the last decade news organization founders and funders have stepped up to build and invest in emerging ecosystems across the country.
Press Forward Local chapters are an opportunity for funders to create place-based initiatives for local news, driven by the specific needs of their communities.
In September, a coalition of funders announced Press Forward, a national initiative to strengthen communities and democracy by supporting local news and information with an infusion of more than a half-billion dollars over the next five years. Press Forward partners committed to re-center local news as a force for community cohesion; support new models and solutions that are ready to scale; and close longstanding inequities in journalism coverage and practice.
“Our goal is to raise the next $500 million at the local level,” said John Palfrey, President, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. “For local news to be sustainable over the long term, communities will need to stand up and support their local news providers. We will need to invest in local news the same way that we invest in arts and culture, hospitals, or our alma maters. We are building a movement.”
While each community is different, Press Forward has identified three types of local ecosystems. This could mean building on existing proven models where local funds have been started or supporting the start-up of new funds.
Nascent News Ecosystems – Too many Americans live in news deserts, in communities at risk of becoming news deserts, or in places where existing news sources are struggling to meet the information needs of audiences. In some of these places, a donor or group of donors are coming together to support local news and information for the first time. They are conducting landscape studies, building the case for journalism support with new donors, and creating a foundation for ongoing collaboration.
- Press Forward Alaska will be led by the Atwood Foundation
- Press Forward Springfield will be led by the Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln
- Press Forward Minnesota will be led by the McKnight Foundation
Expanding News Ecosystems – A number of communities have dynamic and diverse local news outlets, thanks in part to entrepreneurial news leaders, a decade of national programs aimed at strengthening local news, and local news champions, oftentimes the local community foundation. But underneath the impactful reporting and awards, many local newsrooms remain undercapitalized, the ecosystem as a whole requires reinforcement, and the donor community needs to be expanded to support the growing ecosystem.
- Press Forward Chicago will be led by the MacArthur Foundation and The Chicago Community Trust
- Press Forward Wichita will be led by the Wichita Foundation
- Press Forward Minnesota will also apply this approach
Flourishing News Ecosystems – In some cities and states, visionary funder collaboratives have created flourishing news ecosystems that provide a roadmap for others to follow. These ecosystems have learned hard lessons along the way and have adapted over the past decade to serve the news and information needs of their communities. Leaders of these ecosystems are well positioned to provide guidance to others and serve as an inspiration for Press Forward. At the same time, these larger ecosystems require heavy ongoing investment, and this is an opportunity to widen the circle of donors to provide longer-term support.
- Press Forward Philadelphia will be led by the The Lenfest Institute for Journalism
All Press Forward Local Funders have committed to:
- Support local journalism beyond existing funding
- Bring new donors to the local effort
- Establish or support pooled funds or funding collaborations that build common purpose and strengthen the local news ecosystem
- Convene local stakeholders and advance mutual understanding and analysis of the local information ecosystem
- Track and report funding and metrics to Press Forward
- Share models, tools, and lessons learned with other Press Forward Locals
In addition to Alaska, Chicago, Minnesota, Philadelphia, Springfield, and Wichita, Press Forward national is incubating additional chapters around the country.
Meanwhile, Press Forward’s national donors expect to announce a first round of aligned grantmaking in December. Donors of the pooled fund will announce grantmaking guidelines in early 2024.
Organizations interested in Press Forward can sign up for updates to learn more about applying for future grants. Press Forward welcomes and continues to invite additional funders to enhance nonprofit, public, and for-profit news and information.
Video: Press Forward Local Chapters are announced at the Obama Foundation Democracy Forum.