Lenfest Institute announces $26.5 million initiative to fund local news innovation

May 3, 2017
Category: Tech & Tools

Philadelphia’s Lenfest Institute announced $26.5 million in funding Wednesday for initiatives aimed at finding sustainable business models for local journalism, with up to an additional $40 million in a matching gift campaign from philanthropist Gerry Lenfest.

Lenfest, who gave the news organizations inside the Philadelphia Media Network to the nonprofit Lenfest Institute last year, was previously the owner of The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Daily News and philly.com.

“We believe this is really the fiercest battle in journalism and arguably the most important to the democracy,” said Jim Friedlich, the institute’s executive director and CEO.

The Institute, founded in 2016, has helped train journalists in the Philadelphia Media Network and funded an investigative project. This year, the Institute began working with Poynter and the Knight Foundation (which funded my job) to bring digital transformation training to newsrooms around the country.

New projects for the Lenfest Institute include two upcoming initiatives. One is a pilot grant program that includes an open call for ideas on sustainable business models. Grants will range from $25,000 to $100,000, Friedlich said.

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The other is the creation of a residency program, which will bring professionals inside and outside the industry into the institute with a focus on technology, data, user experience and design thinking. Those people will work on their own projects and be part of the grant program’s expert network, Friedlich said.