A collaborative group of supporters of journalism announced on Wednesday a $2.52 million fund to benefit Philadelphia-area media organizations as they cover the coronavirus pandemic.
The Inquirer is among the initial recipients of the Philadelphia COVID-19 Community Information Fund, which was created by the Independence Public Media Foundation (IPMF), the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund. A broad array of local media outlets will benefit, fund organizers said.
“This is by far the largest local news and information effort of its kind [related to the pandemic] yet announced in a major American city,” said Jim Friedlich, CEO and executive director of the Lenfest Institute. “It is gratifying that so many Philadelphia news organizations and funders have partnered for the greater good. It’s been said that it takes a village. In this case, it takes a city.”
Molly de Aguiar, president of IPMF, added that her group was "helping to launch the Philadelphia COVID-19 Community Information Fund first and foremost to support the most vulnerable people in our communities, who are disproportionately harmed by a lack of reliable and relevant information. We are also investing in the fund to support the public’s evolving information needs, as well as their right to have a say in recovery-related decisions and the region’s future.”
Of the fund’s total of $2.52 million, $750,000 is dedicated to grants that will be awarded via an application process. The fund’s first grants, totaling $1.77 million, will support the following organizations:
Resolve Philly ($1 million), which leads a collaborative of 24 Philadelphia-area news organizations. It will serve as the backbone for a coordinated citywide crisis-response plan that provides news and information access, and is powered by its partners and other local organizations and institutions. Partners will collaborate to gather, produce, and disseminate localized, urgent, and up-to-date reporting and public-health information, which will be translated and published in Spanish and additional languages, based on an assessment of community needs.
From this grant, Resolve will also help distribute funding to key partners through public service advertising, sponsored content, and other means.
“We are grateful that our team was asked to leverage our collective might and humbled by the opportunity to invest in the health, agency, and power of Philadelphians through this grant,” said Cassie Haynes, co-executive director of Resolve Philly.
“One of the biggest benefits to Resolve," Haynes said, "is definitely the opportunity to demonstrate the impact of collaborative solutions journalism, on a scale much larger than most organizations of our size have access to — and at such a critical moment for the health and well-being of our neighbors, particularly those who are most vulnerable to the physical, social, and economic impact of COVID-19. The response effort is mighty; the recovery effort will need to be mightier. Unfettered access to urgent, rapidly changing news and information must be central to the strategy.”
WHYY ($350,000) will launch the News and Information Community Exchange, a partnership of community news organizations and civic leaders to enable two-way information sharing and continual engagement with underserved communities in Philadelphia.
“It is great the funders have come together recognizing the urgency of how important it is not to just support news organizations, but also community organizations,” said Sandra Clark, WHYY’s vice president of news and civic dialogue. “All of us know this work can’t be done alone, so collaboration both with other news organizations, but also with community groups and residents, matters a lot.”
The Inquirer ($250,000), which is owned by the Lenfest Institute, will create the Inquirer Community News Service, supporting several initiatives including: El Inquirer, original Spanish-language journalism; Curious Philly, The Inquirer’s community Q&A platform; and “From the Front Lines,” coverage of workers and communities dealing with COVID-19. The Knight-Lenfest Fund announced in September 2019 a grant of $3 million to support new-product development at The Inquirer.
“There’s never been a greater need for collaborative journalism of this kind,” said Stan Wischnowski, The Inquirer’s executive editor and senior vice president. “Working together will allow us all to serve those most vulnerable with vital news and information during this health emergency.”
WURD Radio ($170,000) is the only African American-owned and -operated talk radio station in Pennsylvania and one of only a few remaining in the country. The station will launch Lively-HOOD, including radio, digital, and event programming focused on employment opportunities, access to career assistance, and economic recovery.
“Before the coronavirus, we were poised to be in a growth mode,” said Sara Lomax-Reese, president and CEO of WURD. “The coronavirus has changed everything, and it makes that grant that much more crucially valuable to our survival and our ability to continue to serve the community we have zeroed in on for the last 18 years.”
The $1.75 million in grants is for 2020, with the exception of the WHYY grant, which will be for two years.
The Philadelphia COVID-19 Community Information Fund will soon announce a separate call for proposals for a total of $750,000 in added support. Funded initially by IPMF ($500,000) and the Knight-Lenfest Fund ($250,000), these resources will be made available by application to Philadelphia-area organizations that provide trusted and timely information. More information is available at lenfestinstitute.org/covid19fund.
“We have worked for the past several years in Philadelphia to build a collaborative local-news ecosystem, and never before has this collaboration been more vital,” Friedlich said. “COVID-19 is not only a 24/7 news story but an information crisis for diverse communities in need. The virus knows no borders, and neither should we.”