Private philanthropy’s unique role in backing media  

Daniel Bruce

I was thrilled to see the in-depth examination of philanthropic support for media in the December issue. The purpose and eventual outcomes of direct donations to media sectors can feel enigmatic for many; but never has this issue been more urgent.

For 35 years, Internews has worked from the idea that healthy information ecosystems are the cornerstone of equitable and democratic societies.

As an international charity, we’ve long navigated the diverse priorities of funders and local partners, finding common ground in a mission to enable local voices to provide reliable information where and when people need it most, in a language and format they can access.

We maintain that increasing access to high-quality media that populations the world over can trust, is the central antidote to the apparent plague of disinformation, propaganda and hoax news content.

Increasing access to high-quality media that populations the world over can trust, is the central antidote to the apparent plague of disinformation, propaganda and hoax news content.

While the gulf between the philanthropic sector’s capacity to support the vast needs of independent media was well documented, missing from the conversation until now was a deeper exploration of how private philanthropy can dramatically leverage government and multilateral support.

Internews has found that private philanthropy has the greatest impact as an investment in new approaches and innovations that can be tested, proven and then brought to scale with public investment.

With foundation support, for example, Internews has launched rapid information responses in health and humanitarian crises.

When the spread of rumours exacerbated the Ebola outbreak in west Africa, a quick-response system of fact checking and feedback helped create new reliable local information sources.

The ability to act fast in such crises can ensure that information saves lives. That immediate response led to ongoing support for Liberia’s local, independent media, strengthening journalists’ capacity to report on health issues in the longer term.

Working in partnership with NGOs, media outlets, and public funders, there is a vital, unique, and proven role for private philanthropy in media. We should feel confident to ‘think big’ even when resources are modest.

Daniel Bruce is chief executive (Europe) for Internews.

For other views on this issue see ‘Stylish new designs combine with in-depth coverage‘ by Judith Symonds. 


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