Following the conclusion of last year’s presidential election, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark challenged the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism to propose an initiative addressing problems related to fake news and misinformation.
“That was all well underway when Facebook called me saying they planned to continue doing more for news,” said Jeff Jarvis, director of the school’s Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism. “I told them about the initiative Craig had inspired and it was a perfect fit. This all happened very quickly”
Shortly thereafter, The Ford Foundation and other funders including Mozilla, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Democracy Fund agreed to participate as well.
Formally launched on April 3, The News Integrity Initiative’s goal is to improve online news literacy and trust in journalism through the funding of applied research and projects. The project will also fund the gathering of meetings with industry experts. The initial group of nine funders has pledged at least $14 million to support the project. The Initiative will be run as an independent project by CUNY’s Tow Knight Center.
“We work on trying to build bridges between news publishers and the platforms. We also specialize now in convening groups of professionals into communities of practice—for example, in product development, audience development, commerce, and internationalization—which we then support,” Jarvis said. “So we have the connections and skills needed to convene leaders from across media and technology into practical collaboration.”
A small staff with skills in grant-making and organization will also be hired to assist in overseeing the initiative.
Two weeks before the formal announcement was made, Jarvis said there was a meeting among group members “to examine what we can do together.”
“(It) ended with very tangible suggestions for generating and gathering signals of quality and suspicion about sources online to inform decisions made by advertising, media, and platform companies,” he said. “This work is already underway.”
Early participants who will contribute to conversations, host events around the world, and bring projects and research for potential funding to the initiative’s attention include the Ida B. Well Society, Walkley Foundation and Hamburg Media School in Germany. The grants for the project run from one to four years. Additional funders and participants will continue to be sought out.
“We anticipate the initiative could go longer but we nonetheless see this as a project and not as a philanthropy that will go on forever,” Jarvis said. “Our aim is to have immediate impact.“