Feb 25, 2020 - Economy

Exclusive: Local newsrooms raise $1 million from philanthropy

illustration of a news stand carrier filled with money

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Report for America (RFA), a program of the nonprofit The GroundTruth Project, which supports emerging journalists, helped newsrooms raise nearly $1 million in local fundraising donations last year, executives tell Axios.

Why it matters: Support from donors for local news is becoming more critical as the Trump administration looks to severely cut funds for public media.

  • In its most recent budget proposal, the White House again recommended that federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), which funds public media like PBS and NPR, be reduced to $0 by 2023.
  • Yes, but: Congress has typically shown bipartisan support for funding CPB, and no budget has passed to date without at least some CPB funding.

Details: Report for America uses a funding match model to pay the salaries of local journalists. It pays half of a corps members’ salary, while encouraging and supporting local news organizations to contribute one quarter, and local and regional donors to contribute the final quarter of that members' salary.

  • In 2019, executives say its partner newsrooms quadrupled the program’s goals for local fundraising in 2019, raising more than $800,000 from more than 1,150 local donors, and nearly $1,000,000 when including partners running public radio campaigns. 

The big picture: RFA estimates that over half of the funding secured is from donors who are new to journalism giving.

  • This is a particular feat given the fact that most U.S. adults don't realize that local news media isn't doing well financially, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted last fall.

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