Wanted: funders to back public interest media

Charles Keidan

There are, broadly speaking, two types of media funders.

The first group are philanthropists who buy prominent media titles. Think for example of Amazon founder, Jeff Bezos, who bought the Washington Post for $250 million just over a decade ago. Or Laurence Powell Jobs who bought The Atlantic in 2017. Or consider the radical right broadcaster, GB News, jointly owned by financier Paul Marshall and Dubai based philanthropist, Christopher Chandler.

While their political allegiances differ, what all these super wealthy individuals have in common is an appreciation of the power of media to influence society – for good or ill depending on your view of their political affiliations and the ability of private individuals to shape the media landscape.

The second group of media funders are very different. Largely drawn from professionally staffed foundations, these funders see the faltering of liberal democracy and civil society, and they worry. They worry about the collapse of a sustainable business model for quality journalism. They worry about the impact of digital technologies on advertising revenues. They worry about the decline of print. They worry about misleading and partial information. They worry about misinformation and disinformation amplified by social media. In short, they worry that the decline in the health of liberal democracy is closely related to the collapse both of public interest media and the ideal of journalism itself – the ability to report and explain what’s happening, ventilate debate, foster critical thinking, and allow audiences to reach informed conclusions based on the information and evidence provided.

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