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Philanthropic Support Grows for Journalism

Philanthropic Support Grows for Journalism
David Westphal, a senior fellow at the Center on Communication Leadership and Policy

Philanthropic foundations are taking unprecedented steps to address the crisis in journalism and “serve as a firewall against the disappearance of critical news and information,” according to a new report from the Center on Communication Leadership and Policy at the USC Annenberg School for Communication.

The report is authored by David Westphal, a senior fellow at the center and former Washington editor for McClatchy Newspapers. It is available at Printed copies are available by writing

Leaders from philanthropic foundations, journalism, education and nonprofit organizations were interviewed for the report, which follows up on a major meeting convened in 2008 by Geoffrey Cowan, dean emeritus of the USC Annenberg School and director of the Center on Communication Leadership; Alex Jones, director of the Shorenstein Center at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government; and Orville Schell, former dean of the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and a senior fellow at the center.

“When we had the meeting last year, we saw a need,” Cowan said. “But now we’re in a state of desperation. The collapse of the traditional economic model has increased both the need for nonprofit journalism and also the receptivity toward it.”

“I think it’s safe to say there’s a growing understanding you can’t run a democracy without a free flow of information,” said Alberto Ibarg�en, president and CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, who attended the 2008 meeting and was interviewed for the report. He cited growing interest of community foundations in supporting journalism as an important development.

“We’re extremely excited about the possibilities here,” he said. “We think more and more of [the community foundations] are going to find that information has become one of their community’s core needs.”

Westphal will present research from this report, along with early findings from a new Carnegie Corp.-sponsored study on the role of government in supporting news and information, at the annual convention of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in Boston in August.

The Center on Communication Leadership will continue to explore related developments, including philanthropic support for ethnic media, as part of its ongoing research agenda.

Based at the USC Annenberg School, the Center on Communication Leadership and Policy conducts research and organizes courses, programs, seminars and symposia for scholars, students, policymakers and working professionals to prepare future leaders in journalism, communication and other related fields.

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