Macro Strategies and Sources of Money

Saturday morning, May 16

Host: Craig Aaron, FreePress

Esther Kaplan, The Investigative Fund, The Nation Institute
Linda Jue, G.W. Williams Center for Independent Journalism
Richard Tofel, ProPublica
Bill Buzenberg, Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy
Sarah Van Gelder, Yes! Magazine
Kevin Davis, KLJD Consulting, formerly Investigative News Network
Jay Harris, Public Intelligence Inc., formerly Mother Jones
Bill Densmore, Reynolds Journalism Institute/InfoValet Project
Stephen Silha, Frisky Divinity Productions, Journalism That Matters
Julie Schwietert Collazo, Freelance journalist
Molly de Aguiar, Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation
Michelle Garcia, Freelance journalist and documentary producer

Notes prepared by Jay Harris.

Funding from government/public sources: Craig noted that there are models for government funding of journalism that work in other countries, but the consensus in the group was that, in the current political context, it is difficult to see any short-term prospects in the U.S.

Increasing philanthropic support. Richard Tofel referenced a Steve Waldman report noting that contributions from individuals, not institutions, constitute most of American philanthropy. If 1% of all philanthropy were directed toward journalism, that journalism would be funded abundantly. Richard suggested an effort to persuade Americans to “put journalism on the list” of their reflexive charities, along with schools and the arts. Several specific campaign ideas flowed from that.

1) One was the notion of persuading donors to political campaigns – especially those who are appalled by current campaign spending madness but who don’t feel they can unilaterally opt out – to commit to contributing $1 to “fighting and fixing” the problem (efforts that include alism) for every dollar they contribute to political races. We agreed that a marketing effort to target that very specific audience was needed.

We discussed:

  • Developing a common slogan that could be used by individual media organizations as well as for any collective campaign.
  • Coordinating promotion efforts on a common day, such as was done on Giving Tuesday. (First Amendment Day, marked in some places for late Sept., was suggested as a possible date, though it’s not clear that there is a nationally recognized date.)
  • Pitching the notion to the Democracy Alliance. (We would need to find a member of the Alliance to sponsor a presentation of the idea.)
  • Identifying political donors who would publicly support the campaign.
  • Examining the Gates “Giving Pledge” model to see how we might emulate that success.

Related to this and other possible joint fundraising efforts, there was some discussion of whether we might come up with an acceptable formula for allocating funds contributed into a pool. Some thought it might be worth putting some time into trying to devise such a mechanism, but others cautioned, “there lies madness.”

2) Another idea was to organize an effort aimed at community foundations. Molly noted that community foundations can be great partners for local independent journalism, but local news orgs need to work hard to develop relationships with foundation program staff about the critical role news and information plays in building better, more vibrant communities. Others present suggested that this effort might include delegations of journalists and community leaders. Bill Densmore recommends people look at

3) Other ideas included:

A systematic effort to persuade companies such as Apple to make donating to media easier through their tech payment platforms, for instance, through a donate button embedded in iTunes.

Donations through payroll done through a check box during payroll elections.

Stephen Silha suggests contacting family officers that handle the assets and in some cases the charitable giving of high net-worth individuals to get them thinking about journalism as a public good.


  • Establish a working group on revenue development: Craig Aaron, Linda Jue, Kevin Davis, Jay Harris. Set a date for a first call by June 1.
  • Initiate an effort to connect with the Democracy Alliance re: pitching a match for political spending: Dick, Esther, Jay.
  • Start a process of discussing public funding. Even though it might take 5-10 years to get anywhere with it; the discussion should start now.  – Craig / Free Press
  • Dick Tofel and Molly de Aguiar will initiate efforts to get IJ-Thrive onto the radar of community foundations. Molly to help with messaging.
  • Develop idea of a branding campaign for independent journalism (c.f., the “Red” campaign). Kevin Davis.