The importance of reporting on and telling the untold stories—and how to most effectively fund those efforts—took center stage this month at our 2023 Annual Journalism Funders Gathering at the beautiful Ford Foundation Center for Social Justice in New York. More than 100 journalism funders, old and new, united around some of the most pressing questions in journalism funding today. Questions like, “What is journalism?” “What does it need right now? What’s a funder’s role in supporting it?” are becoming more central to the ongoing discussions and debates of this vibrant and growing network of journalism funders. It was an incredible two days of media showcases, networking, and funder talks.

Below, you’ll find recordings of each session in chronological order so that you can watch any portion of the day.

Day 1

Welcome & Introductions
Nina Sachdev, Director of Communications, Media Impact Funders

Reimagining and Rebuilding Journalism: Defining Our Purpose in Supporting the News
More funders are turning their attention to efforts to rebuild and sustain local news, but the work is raising questions around what journalism is—and isn’t. Are we rebuilding journalism, or reimagining it? Or both? The answer differs depending on who you ask. Ultimately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the local news crisis. Multiple approaches are needed because different communities need different things. This two-part opening plenary digs into the various approaches funders are supporting to serve the information needs of communities across America.

Part I:

  • John Rudolph, Executive Producer and Founder, Feet in 2 Worlds (Fi2W)
  • Wendi C. Thomas, Founding Editor and Publisher, MLK50: Justice Through Journalism
  • Moderated by Lolly Bowean, Program Officer, Creativity and Free Expression, Ford Foundation

Part II:

  • Sarabeth Berman, Chief Executive Officer, American Journalism Project
  • Robin Sparkman, President and Co-CEO, ProPublica
  • Moderated by Kayce Ataiyero, Chief External Affairs Officer, Joyce Foundation

The Latest on Public Policy Efforts to Subsidize Journalism
Steve Waldman, Founder and President of the Rebuild Local News Coalition, gives us a public policy update on federal support for local news.

TransLash Media: Illuminating a Critical Moment for Trans Rights
At a time when disinformation about trans people is being used to undermine democracy and human rights, TransLash Media has emerged as a trusted source for narratives about and for the trans community. Imara Jones, Founder & CEO of TransLash Media, shares how using the power of journalism and personal narrative can serve as a beacon of hope for trans communities all over the world.

Creating a Culture of Safety for Journalists
The ACOS Alliance is a coalition of 150 news organizations, freelance journalist associations and press freedom NGOs working together to champion safe and responsible journalistic practices. In this presentation, we hear from ACOS Executive Director Elisabet Cantenys on the organization’s mission and collaborative approach.

A Conversation with Jose Antonio Vargas
Jose Antonio Vargas has blazed a bold and unique path. Building on early success in journalism, he has employed storytelling in documentary film, in books, and in sparking a powerful movement to humanize and reframe the stories of immigrants as Founder and President of Define American. And now, Jose is a producer of the hit Broadway musical “Here Lies Love.” Jose speaks with Philanthropy New York CEO Kathryn O’Neal-Dunham about his remarkable journey, built on a solid foundation of the principles of journalism to tell truthful stories in search of justice.

The International Journalism Festival: Feeling the Spirit of Public Interest Journalism Worldwide in the Streets of a Medieval Italian Hill Town
The International Journalism Festival—the biggest annual media event in Europe, with over 500 speakers and nearly 200 sessions—is held every April in Perugia, Italy. One notable feature of the festival is that all sessions are free entry for all attendees, without tickets and without registration. The festival’s founders talk about IJF’s unique ability to bring together a large community of journalists, activists, media executives, academic researchers, funders and people formerly known as the audience to connect, learn, share and be inspired.

  • Arianna Ciccone, Co-Founder and Director, International Journalism Festival
  • Christopher Potter, Co-Founder and Director, International Journalism Festival
  • Moderated by Miguel Castro, Deputy Director, Program Communications & Global Media Partnerships, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Journalism in Exile: Efforts to Support the Work of Reporters Forced to Flee
Forced to leave their home countries due to threats, persecution or censorship, exiled journalists often face significant challenges as they seek to continue their work from foreign shores. As forced exile for journalists becomes more and more pervasive in the global media landscape, it’s critical to explore why supporting exiled journalists is essential to maintaining a diverse and independent global media landscape, defending press freedom and uncovering critical stories in regions with limited or compromised media environments. Amy Goodman, Host and Executive Producer of Democracy Now!, and Penelope Winterhager, Managing Director of the JX Fund, discuss what it takes to support journalism in exile—often the only way independent media under authoritarianism can survive.

A Call to Action from the Late Jess Search

Yvette Alberdingk Thijm, a member of the Board of Directors at Doc Society, shares a tribute to our colleague and dear friend Jess Search, who died from brain cancer this past July. As the Co-Founder of Doc Society and a tireless champion of independent film, Jess was a larger-than-life figure who made a huge mark on the field of social impact documentaries. She fiercely believed in the power of documentaries to change the world. Jess led on articulating Doc Society’s urgent and visionary priorities: the Climate Emergency and the Crisis in Democracy. In a letter to our community, “No Time Like The Present,” she called upon her colleagues, friends and funders to triple down on their efforts to save democracy and the fate of the planet through powerful and effective storytelling. The Doc Society leadership and its Board are in full force answering Jess’ call to advance and realize these urgent priorities.

Documentaries as a Way to Tell Investigative Journalism Stories 

Explore the power of documentaries in telling investigative journalism stories with the teams behind the films “After Uvalde” and “Victim/Suspect” in this two-part closing plenary.

Part I:

  • Maria Hinojosa, Founder, Futuro Media
  • Raney Aronson-Rath, Editor-in-Chief and Executive Producer, FRONTLINE
  • Moderated by Emily Tow, President, Tow Foundation

Part II:

  • Rae de Leon, Reporter and Producer, Reveal; Subject of “Victim/Suspect”
  • Nancy Schwartzman, Documentary Filmmaker; Director, “Victim/Suspect”
  • Moderated by Nina Sachdev, Director of Communications, Media Impact Funders

Day 2

Opening Remarks: A Vision for the Future of Philanthropy

“It is only in recent years that philanthropy has awakened to the wisdom of asking and engaging those most impacted by an issue what they believe should be the solutions.” Crystal Hayling, Executive Director of the Libra Foundation, offers remarks on how philanthropy needs to change to meet the past and be an active force in bending history’s arc toward justice.

The Nuts & Bolts of Media Grantmaking

In this series of short talks, funders hear best practices on a few important aspects of media grantmaking:

Learning from BIPOC Publishers How to Make Journalism Philanthropy More Effective
(Tracie Powell, Executive Director, Pivot Fund)


Practical Ways to Find and Support Small and Strong Newsrooms Leading the Reinvention of News
(Sue Cross, Executive Director & CEO, INN)


Best Practices in Supporting Elections and Democracy Reporting
(Angelica Das, Associate Program Director, Democracy Fund)

Philanthropic Giving for the Future of Journalism: Findings from the First Comprehensive Survey of the Field Since 2015

Media Impact Funders and The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, in partnership with NORC at the University of Chicago, earlier this year conducted the first comprehensive survey since 2015 of journalism funders and the field they support. MIF Consultant Jennifer Preston, former VP of Journalism at Knight Foundation, and Jennifer Benz, Deputy Director, The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, share the findings and insights from this consequential research.

Changing the Conversation with Solutions Journalism

The Solutions Journalism Network, now 10 years in operation, has advanced a growing shift in journalism, with news organizations around the world now doing more reporting that examines how people are responding to problems and what can be learned from their efforts. In this presentation, we hear from David Bornstein, co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Solutions Journalism Network, on how journalism can play a more intentional role in building society’s capacity and will to deal with today’s urgent challenges.

Special Musical Performance by Valerie June

A special performance by Grammy-nominated musician Valerie June, followed by an interview conducted by filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris.

  • Valerie June Hockett, Grammy-nominated artist
  • Thomas Allen Harris, President, Family Pictures Institute for Inclusive Storytelling

Uncovering Hidden Black Histories and Contributions to STEM

Thomas Allen Harris, filmmaker, professor and Co-Founder of the Family Pictures Institute for Inclusive Storytelling, shares details about “My Mom, the Scientist,” his new film examining the seldom-told story of the challenges and untapped potential around African Americans’ participation in the sciences, through the life of Harris’ mom, Rudean Leinaeng, a chemistry professor, STEM advocate, and human rights activist. Scientists in the Family—a complementary project to the film—highlights Black participation in STEM using community photo sharing roadshows to source and highlight science stories in Black families.

Inclusive Journalism in Focus: Exploring the Role of Identity Journalism Affinity Groups

Journalism affinity groups have long worked to provide platforms and resources to uplift communities and stories, enable more nuanced and accurate reporting, and provide career advancement through professional development, mentorship and networking. This conversation illuminates the special challenges these groups face, and the opportunities they have to strengthen the media landscape.

  • Drew Berry, Executive Director, National Association of Black Journalists
  • Yvette Cabrera, President of the Board of the and National Association of Hispanic Journalists
  • Rebecca Landsberry-Baker, Executive Director of the National Association of Native American Journalists
  • Mythili Sampathkumar, President of the South Asian Journalists Association
  • Naomi Tacuyan Underwood, Executive Director of the National Association of Asian Americans Journalists
  • Moderated by Jon Funabiki, Founder and former director, Renaissance Journalism

Harnessing the Unique Power and Reach of Video Games and Embedded Documentaries to Engage, Inform and Empower the Next Generation

Across the globe, 3 billion ‘lean-forward’ hours per week are devoted to playing video games, making it a powerful platform to inform, influence minds, and effect significant shifts in attitudes and perspectives for an audience that traditional journalism doesn’t reach. In this presentation, Alan Gershenfeld, Co-Founder and President of E-Line Media, explores the transformative impact of two groundbreaking projects by E-line Media. The first project, “Never Alone,” is an atmospheric puzzle-platform game crafted inclusively with the Iñupiat community. The BAFTA and Peabody award-winning game is based on a story passed down thousands of years, in the Iñupiat language and features 26 short documentaries unlocked through gameplay. It has reached over 12 million gamers and a sequel is in development. E-Line’s next major project is an Outlaw Ocean game, leveraging the same inclusive development process – this time with investigative journalist Ian Urbina and the Outlaw Ocean project. The game will feature a blend of compelling gameplay, unlockable documentaries and opportunities for gamers to engage with and support critical investigative journalism shedding light on crucial issues surrounding environmental concerns, human rights, and labor abuses at sea.

On the Record with…StoryCorps

Sandra (Sandy) Clark, CEO of StoryCorps, spotlights One Small Step, an initiative of StoryCorps meant to bring people with different political views together.

The Power and Perils of Generative AI on the News Industry

We let ChatGPT write this one: In this closing plenary discussion, leading experts in journalism and artificial intelligence delve into the transformative impact of AI in the media landscape, exploring its potential to revolutionize news production, verification, and personalized content delivery. At the same time, they address the ethical concerns surrounding AI’s influence on information accuracy, bias, and media manipulation. Discover how newsrooms can harness the power of AI responsibly to uphold journalistic integrity while navigating the challenges it presents. Gain valuable insights into shaping the future of news in an AI-driven world with the Markup’s CEO Nabiha Syed and Sam Gregory, Executive Director of WITNESS.

Closing Remarks 

Melissa Davis, Vice President for Strategic Communications and Informed Communities, Gates Family Foundation