Beyond Lehrer: Some optimism in Miami around foundations helping fill community info needs

By Jonathan Groves

Mooney spoke passionately about his desire to commit journalism, covering his state capital and holding government accountable at his nonprofit news site. Dekker, whose foundation manages the finances for Mooney’s project, provided a candid counterpoint: Foundations want to see results. They want to affect the public discourse. They want sustainable civic engagement. Dekker:

The journalists don’t know the business model. We don’t know the business model. We don’t come out of journalism. I think all of these projects are feeling their way on the model. And so there’s not a pattern to follow that’s easy. So we have a lot of conversations at the board level about who our audience is. Who are we writing for? How can we monetize it? How can we make this more sustainable?

And sometimes, I think, the journalists hear that as: We’re in their business too much. And they’re journalists, and no one should tell them what to write. And there’s a lot of push and pull on those issues.

It’s no longer just up to journalists to satisfy these community information needs, especially in this disrupted media landscape. Engaging a corps of committed citizens through the support of institutions like community foundations is critical to success. (Knight believes that enough to commit another $9.5 million to it this week.)

The stories shared in Miami showed the interest in new forms of information sharing, ones that blend amateur and professional content — models that could become sustainable with a mix of events, memberships, foundation support, and advertising. “We need more informed and engaged communities,” said Noah Erenberg, of the Community News Commons public-media project in Winnipeg, Manitoba. “It creates more caring and giving communities.”



About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit