First Look Media and Democracy Fund to provide $12M for investigative journalism

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First Look Media and the Democracy Fund announced Monday a total of $12 million in new grants to help investigative news nonprofits tackle today’s political landscape.

Grantees include the Center for Investigative Reporting, the Center for Public Integrity and ProPublica, all known for taking creative approaches toward investigative journalism. Each will receive $3 million over two years for general operating support.

“A healthy democracy cannot exist without a vibrant public square in which hard-hitting, independent media inform the public and hold power accountable,” Democracy Fund President Joe Goldman said in a press release. “Investigative journalists play a crucial role in our political system. We hope this support extends the reach and depth of a remarkable set of nonprofit newsrooms at a pivotal moment in American history.”

In addition, First Look and the Democracy Fund will provide $500,000 to the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University over two years to expand accountability reporting collaborations between students and professional journalists. And a $275,000 grant will back a yearlong collaboration between New York University journalism professor and media critic Jay Rosen and Dutch news website De Correspondent. Rosen and the website will establish a laboratory for community-supported investigative journalism and work to develop sustainable business models for U.S. newsrooms rooted in new membership structures.

First Look and the Democracy Fund will be lenient in measuring grant effectiveness. “We have a very hands-off approach to grantmaking where we fund the content,” said Tom Glaisyer, program director at the Washington, D.C.–based nonprofit. “We are just looking to see that there’s work published and that they track readership and distribution and impact.” Over the last three months, Democracy Fund has been looking at the best of investigative journalism at large, Glaisyer said.

The Democracy Fund and First Look were both established by philanthropist and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.

The Democracy Fund is also awarding $2 million to other organizations:

  • The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press will receive $800,000 over two years toward general operating support.
  • The Democracy Fund will establish a State and Local Investigative Fund with a $1 million initial investment. It’s seeking other funders and donors to contribute and collaborate. “We’ve put that out as a beacon for others and an opportunity for us to see how we may partner with other organizations,” Glaisyer said. “How it’s deployed is very much under development.”
  • And Democracy Fund has teamed up with the Knight Prototype Fund on misinformation to provide $200,000 over one year supporting ideas to fight “fake news”and build trust in journalism.

First Look Media is also granting $550,000 over two years to support a partnership between its publication The Intercept and The Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute for investigative reporting on Wall Street and environmental issues.

“This is a significant commitment of funds to strengthening accountability reporting and the public square,” Glaisyer said. “For democracy to function well, we need to see robust reporting in institutions across the country. We hope this is a down payment on that.”