In the last ten years, the US non-profit sector has invested over a billion dollars in safeguarding and promoting quality journalism to combat perceived threats to the role of the media as the watchdog of democratic principle and practice. The figures appear in a study released today, The Field of Nonprofit Funding of Journalism in the United States.
According to the report which was initiated by the Technical University of Dortmund and carried out by the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the involvement of American foundations has had a significant impact on practices in local journalism, investigative journalism and in topics such as health policy. Financing from foundations, claims the study, provides a basis for new ideas that plug gaps in the changing media landscape. Moreover, the American example also shows that big experiments can be started, and new forms of quality journalism tested, with relatively modest resources. However, the report also clearly shows the limits of foundation financing for journalism when it comes to the sustainability of projects and securing funds to take them beyond the initial stage.
Why should a German university sponsor a study of non-profit activity in the US? Because, given what a press release from the Technical University of Dortmund calls ‘the similarities between the situations in the USA and Europe’, the US experience shows that similar engagement from European foundations could help preserve quality journalism on this side of the Atlantic, too.
The report is available for download from today from: http://www.activephilanthropy.org