Foundation-Funded News: The State of Research

Martin Scott

April 2, 2019

Blog

TO HELP THOSE WANTING TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS AREA, WE HAVE PRODUCED AN OVERVIEW OF THE EXISTING RESEARCH INTO FOUNDATION-FUNDED JOURNALISM. THIS LISTS THE MAIN PUBLICATIONS TO DATE, THE METHODS USED AND THE MAIN FINDINGS.

Research into foundation-funded journalism is relatively scarce and disconnected. There is, for example, no single edited volume on this topic.

This matters because while philanthropists and foundations often want to support journalism, it is not always clear how they should do this. Similarly, journalists are often unsure about common practices in this area.

For those interested in carrying out further research in this area, this matters because it is useful to know what methods have been used to study this topic in the past and how their findings compare to others.

We are certain that this list is incomplete, though. So please get in touch to let us know what is missing – we intend to produce updated versions as further research is published.

There are three key characteristics of research in this are:

1. Most of the research is US centric. This is partly because, as Eric Karstens explains, ‘charitable journalism funding largely remains a US affair – both in terms of donors and beneficiaries’. According to data from Media Impact Funders, ‘more than 90 per cent of grant money flows to US-based organizations, with some 6 per cent of funds allocated to Europe, and only about 1 per cent to media outlets in the developing world… The vast majority of foundations engaging in the sector are also based in the US’.

2. A number of the studies listed here rely upon data held by Media Impact Funders for their analysis. The other dominant methodology is interviews or surveys of journalists and representatives of foundations. By contrast, there are very few ethnographic studies of specific cases of foundation-funded journalism, or systematic analyses of news content itself. As Harry Browne puts it, ‘there has not, as yet, been any comprehensive content analysis of the work produced by foundation-funded journalists’

3. By far the greatest concern of existing research is about how foundation funding may affect journalistic independence or autonomy. Other common issues addressed include the volume and sustainability of funding, the consequences of an ‘impact agenda’ and the effects of foundation funding on the role perceptions and ‘boundaries’ of journalism.

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