April 22, 2024

We now know the focus for the first open call for funding from the $500 million initiative to revive local news — historic inequalities. 

On Monday, Press Forward announced that the topic of its first open call for funding will come with general operating support of $100,000 each for more than 100 newsrooms over two years.

From the press release: “For this open call, Press Forward is prioritizing organizations that are producing and delivering news and information to underserved audiences such as communities of color, linguistically diverse communities, low-wealth rural communities, and others not adequately served, reached or represented.”

Applications will open April 30 and close June 12. 

When Press Forward was first announced, a number of organizations signed an open letter calling for “equitable distribution of resources to underrepresented voices in local news.”

“Their letter was not the only communication that we’ve gotten from outlets, from people in the space trying to make sure we don’t forget the small but mighty,” said Dale R. Anglin, Press Forward’s director.

Inequalities in representation and coverage existed even when there were 1,000 more newspapers, Anglin said. 

“It’s pretty clear that there are communities that have never been served well. … We’re trying to identify and support some of those groups.”

Press Forward (here’s our primer) was announced in September as a five-year philanthropic collaborative to support and revive local news in the United States. According to Press Forward, the initiative’s pillars are:

  • Strengthening already trusted local newsrooms 
  • Local news transformation
  • Closing inequalities in coverage and practice
  • Advancing public policies

It takes a bit to get past the philanthropy-speak to understand Press Forward’s structure, but think of it like this: There are three buckets of money.

The biggest is aligned grantmaking, where funders can give directly to local initiatives. 

Another is the pooled fund, where national funders can work together. 

And the third is local chapters, which now total 17.

For this open call from the pooled fund, Anglin said, funds will come from 11 of Press Forward’s 50-plus funders. 

$100,000 to 100 or so newsrooms is a scratch at that bigger number, but Anglin said already this year Press Forward has invested $54 million through aligned grantmaking

In a “letter to the field” from March, Anglin wrote “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.”

I asked Anglin for any advice for newsrooms that are hoping to harness some Press Forward money but are unsure of where to start. 

Her advice: Look for upcoming webinars, sign up to get more information and learn more about forming local chapters. 

The next open call for funding this year will focus on local news transformation. Anglin said they’re working on guidelines, but those should be larger, multi-year grants of $250,000 and up. 

“We know there are groups and groups of groups that are trying new things,” she said, “and we want to find those, support them, scale them and share with others what they’re doing.”

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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