New Project Measures the Impact of Media Philanthropy

Foundation support for media and journalism has seen massive growth in recent years, more than doubling between 2009 and 2015. A total of US$9.9 billion in philanthropy cash was pumped into media worldwide during that period, according to a recent report by Media Impact Funders.

Media philanthropy is indeed a growing force globally, but how much influence does it actually have on homegrown, independent journalism? Country reports published as part of the Center for Media, Data and Society’s (CMDS) ongoing mapping of journalism funding worldwide show that philanthropies remain a very small player. And yet, even though their overall share in the total media funding is tiny, donors have the potential to impact how independently their grantees operate.

Do donors influence journalism coverage? It’s a question worth asking, considering that foundations themselves are concerned about how they affect their grantees. Many of these foundations spend resources, time and money gauging their impact on grantees, and some even assess the impact of their grantees’ journalism on local societies.

To study the impact of media philanthropy, CMDS has launched the Media Philanthropy: People and Impact project.

Using an impact assessment tool developed by CMDS experts in cooperation with journalists, donor organizations and media development experts, the project will collect data and information about individual recipients of donor money to measure the overall impact of that money in journalism.

The project team includes Senior Program Officer Eva Bognar, Director Marius Dragomir, Outreach Coordinator Robert Nemeth and four CMDS researchers. It will be carried out with CMDS’s own resources, and no donor funding will be used for expenses incurred in the project.