A coalition of donors catalyzes local news and information for stronger communities

September 7, 2023 — A coalition of 22 donors, including the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, today announced Press Forward, a national initiative to strengthen communities and democracy by supporting local news and information with an infusion of more than half-billion dollars over the next five years. Press Forward will enhance local journalism at an unprecedented level to re-center local news as a force for community cohesion; support new models and solutions that are ready to scale; and close longstanding inequities in journalism coverage and practice.

Since 2005, approximately 2,200 local newspapers have closed, resulting in 20% of Americans living in “news deserts” with little to no reliable coverage of important local events. Press Forward seeks to reverse the dramatic decline in local news that has coincided with an increasingly divided America and weakening trust in institutions.

National, regional, local, and issue-specific funders co-designed Press Forward with the aim of deploying significant new resources to the field through greater coordination and peer learning. Informed by insights and feedback from leaders and practitioners in the field, this multi-funder collaborative aligned on a set of shared values to guide their grantmaking: prioritizing transformation, centering community needs, growing with equity, ensuring accessibility, and preserving the editorial independence of news-gathering organizations.

The Hewlett Foundation plans to contribute $10 million to Press Forward from the foundation’s Special Projects fund, which offers support for catalytic projects, including promising philanthropic collaborations. Hewlett’s commitment will represent new funding for local news and information outlets, and will be part of a series of grants being made by the foundation in 2023 to help support informed, engaged, and inspired communities.

“People and communities cannot solve their problems without reliable information,” said Hewlett Foundation president Larry Kramer. “Press Forward is a promising vehicle for philanthropists to collaborate, learn together, and revitalize local news and civic information.”

While philanthropic support for journalism has grown over the past decade, overall giving to local news falls short of what is needed. Press Forward partners are ready to move from individual grantmaking strategies to a shared vision and coordinated action that ensures individuals are informed and engaged on issues that affect their everyday lives.

“We have a moment to support the reimagination, revitalization, and rapid development of local news. We are prepared to support the strongest ideas and seed new ones; build powerful networks; and invest in people, organizations, and networks with substantial resources,” said John Palfrey, president of the MacArthur Foundation. “The philanthropic sector recognizes the need to strengthen American democracy and is beginning to see that progress on every other issue, from education and health care to criminal justice reform and climate change, is dependent on the public’s understanding of the facts.”

See the full press release, including funding priorities and timeline, and learn more about this effort.

Press Forward is independent of ideology and plans to work with More Perfect, a nonpartisan initiative that is advancing five interrelated democracy goals, one of which is Access to Trusted News and Information.

“Press Forward is an audacious effort to fortify a key pillar of American democracy, a healthy and independent free press,” said John Bridgeland, CEO of More Perfect. “Local news provides critical information, knits communities together, and keeps public officials accountable, all of which are essential to a thriving democracy.”

Learn more about our approach

In addition to Hewlett, initial Press Forward partners are The Archewell Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln, Democracy Fund, Ford Foundation, Mary W. Graham, Glen Nelson Center at American Public Media Group, Heising-Simons Foundation, Henry Luce Foundation, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Joyce Foundation, KFF, Knight Foundation, The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, Lumina Foundation, McKnight Foundation, Outrider Foundation, Rita Allen Foundation, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Skyline Foundation, and Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

The Miami Foundation will serve as the fiscal sponsor for Press Forward and will manage a pooled fund and coordinate aligned grantmaking on behalf of participating funders. It will hire a small staff who will focus on growing and supporting funder engagement and learning and help advance the goals of the initiative.

Some funders are expected to make exemplary aligned grants before the end of the year; most will begin grantmaking in 2024. Donors will make grants from the pooled fund in 2024.

Organizations interested in Press Forward can learn more about applying for grants and seeking additional guidance. Press Forward welcomes and continues to invite additional funders to enhance nonprofit, public, and for-profit news and information.