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How Funding Local News Ecosystems Helps American Communities Thrive

October 31, 2023

Reliable information fuels our lives. We need to know who is on the ballot, what's happening in our schools, where to find rental assistance, and how to make change in our neighborhoods. From daily reporting that equips people to act, to huge investigations that reveal corruption, the health of local news is bound up with the health of our democracy.Over five years, Democracy Fund has invested $11 million in six geographic areas across the U.S., where residents and institutions are collaborating to better meet their communities' real information needs.This report tells the story of how Democracy Fund grantees created positive impact in their communities through innovative, locally-driven solutions. It also shares lessons for funders and local leaders interested in advancing a more equitable future for local journalism. As more funders consider local collaborative funding, we hope that this report will serve as a valuable resource.

Mapping Digital Media: Nigeria

February 24, 2020

The Mapping Digital Media project examines the global opportunities and risks created by the transition from traditional to digital media. Covering 60 countries, the project examines how these changes affect the core democratic service that any media system should provide: news about political, economic, and social affairs.Nigeria has a relatively high internet penetration rate, driven primarily by a rapid expansion of mobile platforms. Recent figures suggest that over a third of the population have access to the internet and there are over 50 mobile phones per 100 Nigerians. However, internet access is concentrated geographically within just 16 percent of the country, and overwhelmingly within urban areas. Access to digital broadcasting platforms is largely contained within pay-TV networks, and free-to-air digital broadcasting is still embryonic.Regarding free-to-air, there are currently no legal requirements on broadcasters to facilitate citizen access to digital platforms, nor any measures to ensure its affordability. Regulatory pressure has been applied to commercial broadcasters, but state broadcasters have been criticized for failing to take a leadership role in driving the switch-over.The report suggests that the development of the mobile sector offers the best hope for bridging regional and social divides in the medium term. But the enduring significance of these divides presents the most profound obstacle to Nigerian society reaping the benefits of digital media in terms of increased diversity, openness, and access.

Mapping Digital Media: Colombia

February 24, 2020

The Mapping Digital Media project examines the global opportunities and risks created by the transition from traditional to digital media. Covering 60 countries, the project examines how these changes affect the core democratic service that any media system should provide: news about political, economic, and social affairs.In Colombia, analog free-to-air television is still by far the most influential source of news. Digitization seems to be increasing both the quantity and range of news and the total public consumption of media as many traditional outlets now have online versions, while some new online only outlets have been born in recent years and gained recognition as news providers. Internet use is increasing very fast in urban areas and higher socioeconomic groups.Public media have been strengthened in recent years and public service provision is considered an important issue in Colombia. The transition to digital terrestrial television (DTT) is seen as both a challenge and an opportunity to public media. Digital activism too has grown in Colombia, and active internet users have proved the power of social networking, which has become very popular. Political debates and hostage rescue operations have, among others, triggered big digital mobilizations, especially on Facebook and Twitter.The policy and regulatory framework for digital media is still being defined as the media regulatory framework itself is functional, but there are several procedural flaws in the implementation.

How States Are Expanding Broadband Access

February 1, 2020

This report from the Pew Charitable Trusts highlights practices for state programs aimed at expanding broadband access to un- and underserved areas.Based on interviews with more than three hundred representatives of state broadband programs, Internet service providers, local governments, and broadband coalitions, the report identified five promising and mutually reinforcing practices: stakeholder outreach and engagement at both the state and local levels; a policy framework with well-defined goals that connects broadband to other policy priorities; planning and capacity building in support of broadband infrastructure projects; funding and operations through grant programs, with an emphasis on accountability and data collection; and program evaluation and evolution to ensure that lessons learned inform the next iteration of goals and activities. The study explores how nine states — California, Colorado, Maine, Minnesota, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin — have adapted and implemented different combinations of those practices to close gaps in broadband access.

7 Feasible Ways to Expand Civic Space in West Africa in 2020

January 28, 2020

The effective implementation of WACSI's interventions is dependent on civil society's contributions and feedback on the Institute's work in promoting an open, safe and prosperous West Africa. WACSI's interventions are guided and inspired by the critical voices from key stakeholders and engagement by different communities and groups across West Africa. At WACSI, we are conscious that civic space affects everything civil society does and everything civil society does affects civic space.  A safe, open, free and enabling space for all to form and voice opinions, debate, be heard and peacefully protest, is also an essential prerequisite for achieving the ECOWAS Vision 2020. Civic freedoms including the freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, safe environments and effective participation are therefore essential. This Op-Ed critically assesses the civic space environment in 2019, predictions for 2020 and issues that need more introspection and collective action.

Decoding Media Impact: Insights, Advice & Recommendations

January 23, 2020

This report provides an examination of the current state of the field of media impact assessment, which Media Impact Funders (MIF) has been tracking for seven years. It is meant to serve as a practical resource for funders who want to understand where to start. Informed by feedback from our network, it represents a synthesis of the past seven years of work we've done in the impact space, and includes examples of successful media impact evaluation, tools and frameworks for assessment, and the challenges of defining and measuring impact in a rapidly-shifting media landscape.Our years of research have led us to four key insights, and this report includes a deep dive into each of them, as well as companion guest essays from leaders in the field. We hope you will use this guide to inform your own practice, and to continue this critical conversation.

The New Advertisers: How Foundation Funding Impacts Journalism

December 17, 2019

Many journalism stakeholders have begun looking to philanthropic foundations to help newsrooms find economic sustainability. The rapidly expanding role of foundations as a revenue source for news publishers raises an important question: How do foundations exercise their influence over the newsrooms they fund? Using the hierarchy of influence model, this study utilizes more than 40 interviews with journalists at digitally native nonprofit news organizations and employees from foundations that fund nonprofit journalism to better understand the impact of foundation funding on journalistic practice. Drawing on previous scholarship exploring extra-media influence on the news industry, we argue that the impact of foundations on journalism parallels that of advertisers throughout the 20th century—with one important distinction: Journalism practitioners and researchers have long forbidden the influence from advertisers on editorial decisions, seeing the blurring of the two as inherently unethical. Outside funding from foundations, on the other hand, is often premised on editorial influence, complicating efforts by journalists to maintain the firewall between news revenue and production.

#Giving Tuesday: What We Know Now

December 9, 2019

This report seeks to investigate existing research about crowdfunding for nonprofit organizations using the lens of #GivingTuesday as a way to focus on the questions, concerns, and potential for this relatively new tool for giving to nonprofit organizations. Crowdfunding is broadly defined as "the raising of capital from a large and diverse pool of donors via online platforms" (Davies, 2014). While many forms of crowdfunding exist, including funding of for-profit projects, businesses, and peer-to-peer giving, this report focuses on crowdfunding for nonprofit organizations exclusively.

Putting a Price Tag on Local News: Americans’ Perceptions of the Value and Financial Future of Local News

November 17, 2019

A crisis faces local newsrooms across the nation. News publishers have, for over a decade, competed with search engines and digital platforms, not only for their readers' attention, but also for advertising revenue. At the same time, we have seen decades of growing distrust and partisan antipathy toward institutions of all kinds, including journalism. Local newspapers are especially vulnerable to these trends. As a result, there have been waves of consolidation, often resulting in fewer newsroom jobs. Particularly controversial have been acquisitions of newspapers by private equity investors, often followed by debate about how the newsroom is managed by its new ownership.This Gallup/Knight Foundation study seeks to better understand whether Americans care about the fate of local news organizations, what they value about these organizations and what could be done to make more of these organizations financially sustainable. The results are sobering, but they also point toward potential solutions for addressing some of the economic challenges facing many local news organizations.

Local Journalism in Crisis: Why America Must Revive Its Local Newsrooms

November 12, 2019

Thousands of local newspapers have closed in recent years. Their disappearance has left millions of Americans without a vital source of local news and deprived communities of an institution essential for exposing wrongdoing and encouraging civic engagement. Of those still surviving, many have laid off reporters, reduced coverage, and pulled back circulation.

Enhancing Digital Security Awareness for CSOs in Africa

October 23, 2019

Over the last two decades, technology tools available for civil society actors in Africa have tremendously evolved.  Journalists and activists relied mostly on print media to call out dictators and authoritarian regimes. To avoid being incarcerated, they hid their identities or never stayed in one location. Today, they use digital technologies to mask their identities and digital footprints, and communicate in real-time with informants and reporters using technologically advanced tools . To keep pace with the world and be effective in the work that they do, such media and civil society actors have had to embrace new and emerging technologies to facilitate their work. 

Broadcasting the Gospel of Tolerance: Media, Capitalism, and Religion in Twentieth-Century America

September 5, 2019

Most histories of religion, media, and capitalism have focused on televangelists or on conservative religious leaders who built their own broadcasting networks. But this is not the entire story. Religious insiders—frequently centrist liberals—did not need to create their own broadcasting networks because their connections with media networks and philanthropists gave them a privileged place in the American mediascape. In this report, I investigate the relationship between the Rockefeller family and religious media. I focus especially on John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and his funding of Riverside Church's Harry Emerson Fosdick and his National Vespers radio program. This report demonstrates the prominence of liberal religious media during the "Golden Age" of radio, and it helps explain how religious liberals navigated the financial dilemmas of producing sustaining programs.

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