At a time when challenges to media independence pollute and distort the news landscape and traditional revenue models continue to erode, independent media organizations are thinking innovatively about how best to fund high-quality independent journalism.
At The Guardian we are pioneering a new model in which philanthropic support is part of the mix.
The Guardian has long roots in philanthropy. In 1936 the Scott family put its fortune into trust to preserve the publication, its independence and its editorial values in perpetuity. The Guardian has one shareholder – The Scott Trust – we have no billionaire owner, nor are we driven to seek private profit. This unique ownership structure has given us freedom to produce the kind of mission-driven journalism that lends itself well to philanthropic support.
For the past six years, we have sought and received philanthropic donations through partnerships with a range of organizations including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Knight Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Skoll Foundation, Humanity United, Ford Foundation and others to support journalism and storytelling about issues like global development, climate change, women’s rights and human trafficking.
The bedrock of these partnerships is a shared sense of mission and purpose around some of the most persistent and challenging issues of our time.
For instance, the Ford Foundation is supporting a year-long series called ‘The Inequality Project’ that seeks to shed light on global inequality and social unfairness.
And for the past three years, Humanity United has supported investigations and reporting about modern-day slavery that have prompted direct government and policy response to the egregious work environments of people throughout the world.
Building on this strong track record, we have established theguardian.org which has tax-exempt status in the US and is overseen by an independent board. This new organization allows us to broaden and diversify philanthropic support, through a mixture of partnerships and grantmaking that will help deliver the hard-hitting storytelling and independent journalism that readers seek from us.
Support from philanthropy is a small, but important, way in which we are able to ensure deep and sustained coverage of topics at the heart of The Guardian’s editorial agenda.
Why should partners work with The Guardian to advance story-telling and reporting that drives discourse and impact? It’s not simply a case of our independence, stature, and reach. We’ve also made our name over many decades by being fearless, progressive and fair-minded across many topics.
Our track record in reporting on subjects like climate change, global development and poverty in both rich and poor nations means that potential partners and supporters know they can trust The Guardian to work sensitively and thoroughly in the pursuit of important untold stories.
The underlying premise of all our journalism that is supported by philanthropy is that it must be editorially driven and aligned with The Guardian’s core editorial mission. A rigorous process of due diligence and editorial review is undertaken around all support to ensure editorial integrity and independence.
And all of our work with philanthropic partners is transparently ‘badged’ and recognized on the side in line with The Guardian’s overall content funding guidelines, which make clear how the content has been commissioned and produced, and who has funded it.
In collaboration with The Guardian and other partners, theguardian.org will work to advance and inform public discourse around some of the most pressing issues of our time, drive and amplify the impact of The Guardian journalism, and develop partnerships across academia, non-profits and other media that share theguardian.org’s aims.
A rigorous process of due diligence and editorial review is undertaken around all support to ensure editorial integrity and independence.
Of course, receiving support from philanthropy does not mean that we would ever shy away from criticizing philanthropists or private foundations when warranted, and indeed we have done so in the past on numerous occasions.
We are just getting started. We are excited about the progress we’re making, and hope that we can serve as a model for the industry. The renewed focus on philanthropic giving is just the start and we will continue to build on this to enable The Guardian’s journalism to thrive and flourish in a new era.