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New Fund at Borealis Philanthropy Raises $3.6 Million to Advance Racial Equity in Journalism

  • By Newmark J-School Staff

Borealis Philanthropy announced today the launch of the Racial Equity in Journalism Fund, which will invest in news organizations strengthening inclusivity in civic news and decreasing disinformation. The new fund seeks to bolster the capacity and sustainability of news organizations led by people of color and partners in equity to increase civic engagement for communities of color.

“As we’ve learned throughout the decades, inclusive news coverage and newsrooms benefit everyone, including elite news consumers. If we don’t understand our nation in all its breadth, we can’t act in our best interests,” said Farai Chideya, Program Officer for Creativity and Free Expression at the Ford Foundation. “A historic lack of diversity and equity in journalism has left countless stories untold, and multiple American communities and issues poorly-covered. To rebuild our news industry and promote civic participation, we must invest — financially and with knowledge and networks — in a broader range of media-makers, for the good of all.”

“As a journalism institution, we are committed not only to developing the next generation of leaders in our industry but also to ensuring that the industry is prepared for the future–and the me that means covering and investing in historically marginalized communities,” said Jennifer Choi, managing director of the Newmark J-School’s News Integrity Initiative. “We believe this fund will advance both these missions by driving much-needed capital and great journalism into the places that need the most.”

The imperative for the fund is clear: data from the Foundation Center analyzed by Democracy Fund shows that between 2009 and 2015, only 6% of the $1.2 billion in grants invested in journalism, news, and information in the United States went towards efforts serving specific racial and ethnic groups and only 7% went towards efforts serving economically disadvantaged populations.

Nikole Hannah-Jones, a New York Times Magazine writer and co-founder of the Ida B. Wells Society of Investigative Reporting, described how media organizations led by people of color, “have long been a vanguard of our democracy, holding the powerful accountable for the ways it treats its most vulnerable citizens in ways mainstream media has often failed to do. It was organizations such as the black press that campaigned most vigorously to abolish slavery, to pass federal legislation against lynching, and to end Jim Crow, when mainstream media either ignored these stories altogether or sided with the powerful. Journalists of color consistently bring credibility and accuracy to the coverage of our multiracial democracy, yet media organizations led by and serving people of color consistently struggle to gain the types of resources that allow them to have a broad and sustained impact. We at the Ida B. Wells Society for Investigative Reporting are excited to see how the fund will help to change that by providing pivotal support to these newsrooms at a time when their unique perspective and coverage is desperately needed.”

To date, the fund has raised $3.6 million and will begin making grants in the first quarter of 2020. Current donors to the Fund include: Craig Newmark Philanthropies, Democracy Fund, the Ford Foundation, the Google News Initiative, and the News Integrity Initiative at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY.

The Fund is committed to investing in non-profit and for-profit news organizations improving racial equity in news coverage and newsrooms, including by supporting media organizations led by people of color and media organizations serving diverse communities. In particular, the Fund will prioritize:

  • Organizations with a depth and length of commitment to community engagement
  • Efforts to provide timely and important news to communities most underserved and facing the greatest barriers in receiving public affairs information
  • Organizations developing creative and innovative ways to reach the communities they serve

If you are interested in receiving support from the fund, please sign up on our email list to receive forthcoming updates about the application process.

To learn more about the fund and how to support its work, please contact Borealis Philanthropy’s Director of Racial Equity Initiatives, Maya Thornell-Sandifor:


Zaineb Mohammed, 630-921-1741,
Ellen Lai, 646-758-7864,