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How Philanthropic Support for Journalism is Making a Difference

Date: May 4, 2023

Daisy Veerasingham

President and CEO, The Associated Press

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In the past year alone, journalists from The Associated Press have explored the impact of climate change on the Jordan River and other sacred rivers in Africa, Asia, and South America; revealed hundreds of thousands of students have disappeared from U.S. public school rolls since the pandemic began; and personalized a redistricting case before the Supreme Court by introducing readers to the people it impacted.

These are just a few examples of work that would not have been possible without the support of philanthropic donors who believe in the importance of independent, fact-based, nonpartisan journalism to a healthy democracy. Philanthropic investments make a significant difference in the ability of news organizations to cover issues that impact people’s daily lives and deliver information essential for civil societies.

Today, The Associated Press, an independent, not-for-profit global news cooperative founded 177 years ago, is actively working with 21 foundations on almost 30 journalism projects. We’ve created a dedicated climate reporting team, adding 20 journalists across Africa, Asia, and North and South America to tell one of the most important stories of our time. In the U.S., we have launched a democracy team to help an increasingly polarized public better understand how their government works. We have also built an “Education Reporting Network” and shared practical and contextual information — as well as datasets — with local newsrooms to help them customize stories for their audiences.

All of this work is done to provide deeper coverage of key topics we see as core to the news report we deliver to hundreds of member news organizations in all 50 states and thousands of customers worldwide — not only on the subjects of climate, democracy, and education, but also on health, religion and more. The foundations funding this work understand the role of independent journalism, and respect that our news organization maintains control over what we cover and how we cover it. Their contributions allow us to provide more robust coverage of critical issues they care about and work creatively to reach wider audiences.

The impact of such investments cannot be overstated, especially at a time when the news media industry as a whole is under continued pressure. Local news outlets with limited resources don’t always have the capacity to invest in such work and increasingly rely on AP for help. Many have had to reduce staff substantially, with fewer reporters left to do the jobs of several people. In fact, in 2022, the average journalist covered four beats, according to a Muck Rack survey. And that’s in places where local news organizations exist — we’re all familiar with the news deserts that have cropped up across the U.S., where information vacuums are too often filled with rampant misinformation.

Philanthropy can help in all of these cases by injecting resources to both insulate coverage from cutbacks and accelerate important reporting projects. Grants can give newsrooms the runway they need to deepen their coverage, experiment with new approaches, help make important shifts toward greater diversity, and confront relentless threats from misinformation.

As a cooperative, AP provides essential infrastructure that powers the entire news industry, from small community weeklies to large broadcast networks and, importantly, across the political spectrum. Philanthropic funding accelerates our ambitions to provide valuable training and services to fellow news organizations along with the coverage they depend on to power their own offerings. We see the desire of philanthropic organizations to support our efforts as validating our mission of providing factual, unbiased journalism, and it’s clear that other news organizations agree. Last year, more than half the revenue at news outlets belonging to the Institute for Nonprofit News came from foundation support. This is a trend we expect to carry on.

As the news industry continues to explore the role of philanthropy in supporting journalism, so too must philanthropic organizations consider the impact they can have in protecting the public’s access to reliable and trusted news. Together we can ensure there is a place for deeply reported news stories that resonate with audiences and make a difference across the globe.

A second blog post from The Associated Press will explore how grants to journalism organizations are structured with integrity to advance everyone’s mission.

Daisy Veerasingham is president and CEO of The Associated Press. She previously served as AP’s executive vice president and chief operating officer.

Editor’s Note: CEP publishes a range of perspectives. The views expressed here are those of the authors, not necessarily those of CEP.

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