Local News Blues: Get Ready: Press Forward Will Fund Some Small(ish) News Outlets

Print More

Alice Dreger photo

Press Forward Director Dale Anglin at the regional SPJ meeting in Boston (April 20, 2024).

Who will be eligible? Read on.

By Alice Dreger

BOSTON – If your for-profit or nonprofit local news organization has an annual budget of less than $1 million and reports for populations traditionally bypassed – or it’s based at an institution of higher learning– get ready. A chance is coming to obtain general operating support from Press Forward, the $500 million national campaign to rescue local news.

Speaking at the regional meeting of the Society of Professional Journalists in Boston this afternoon, Press Forward Director Dale Anglin indicated that Press Forward will put out a general call for applications on April 30. 

While Press Forward has already given out $48 million in grants, this will mark the first time Press Forward will be asking potential grantees to apply.

According to what Anglin shared today at the Emerson College-hosted event, the call due out in 10 days will seek proposals for general operating support for news outlets running on less than $1 million per year. 

“We want to go small,” said Anglin today, adding that small outlets “are the most fragile.”

Sharing that Press Forward’s team recognizes small for-profits are barely profitable, Anglin said both for-profit and nonprofit organizations will be eligible to apply for what she hopes will turn into funding for about 100 outlets.

The vision she outlined today indicates planned support for three basic types of operations: BIPOC outlets, outlets serving historically underserved geographic regions (some rural areas), and student-led college newsrooms with “outward facing” reporting (not simply reporting on their own institutions). Anglin hinted there may also be funding made available to organizations that report specifically for LGBTQ communities. 

The plan is to separately review applications from organizations running on less than $500,000 per year and those having budgets between $500,000 and $1,000,000 per year. 

Saying her organization is trying to follow “best practices” in philanthropy, Anglin told SJP attendees that Press Forward is planning to hire grant writers, including some who are fluent in Spanish, to help small news outlets. Reviewers will be drawn from journalism and will be paid for their work. The names of reviewers will be published at the end of the process. 

Responding to a reference to AI in the future of journalism, Anglin also indicated an expectation that another RFP will be issued by Press Forward’s national office this fall, directed in that case at technological innovations in the journalism field. 

Since taking the helm of Press Forward less than two months ago, Anglin has been traveling the country talking with journalists and news publishers. At the SJP regional meeting in Boston, she acknowledged the importance of local news reporting and the financial challenges faced by outlets, be they for- or not-for-profit. She said that the hope of the Press Forward national team is to “shine a big spotlight” on the need for philanthropies and individuals to support local news.

All signs continue to indicate that most local news operations will receive no direct funding from Press Forward’s national campaign. Indirect support is being provided through contributions by Press Forward to umbrella organizations like the Institute for Nonprofit News and businesses that function as tech vendors and marketing consultants to news producers.

Press Forward is encouraging local and regional philanthropies to form Press Forward Local chapters. These are intended to raise and distribute funds to local news outlets in their own areas  and may receive “catalyst funding” from the national campaign.

Today, Anglin indicated that locals could use catalyst funding to support local newsrooms – that the idea is for Press Forward Local chapters to really take the reins in terms of local decision-making in this campaign. 

The national campaign is not looking “to tell the locals what to do,” Anglin said, but rather to provide moral and limited financial support to the locals. 

To be clear, the call coming April 30 will not require applicants to be connected to a Press Forward Local chapter.

Local News Blues will be setting up an FAQ on Press Forward to help local news publishers understand the Press Forward campaign as it evolves. If you have questions you’d like us to include in the FAQ, please send them in via this form. You can find all Local News Blues’ commentary and analysis on Press Forward here.

Alice Dreger is a journalist, historian, and the publisher of Local News Blues. She founded East Lansing Info, a nonprofit digital investigative news service, and ran the operation for about ten years. Read more at the Local News Blues contributors page.

Comments are closed.