Following a productive first year of operation, The Lenfest Institute for Journalism has garnered an additional $26.5 million of funding for various projects and initiatives aimed at developing viable business models for local journalism.
H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest, who founded the Philadelphia-based institute in January 2016 and simultaneously transferred ownership of the Inquirer, Daily News and newspapers’ joint web portal Philly.com to the non-profit, has also pledged to give an additional $40 million as part of a matching gift campaign.
Donations came from a highly diverse and broad-based group of foundations and individuals with a familiar goal in mind. A $15 million gift came from a new donor requesting anonymity.
“There are a number of former journalists and publishers who are dedicated to this cause, but they are by no means the majority,” said Jim Friedlich, executive director and CEO of the institute. “There is also a law firm, a large health insurance company, a prominent venture capital investor, the former CEO of Nickelodeon, several academics, and many others. The common theme is a deep concern for local independent journalism and a belief that our focus on finding new approaches to sustainability is part of the solution.”
Friedlich said the non-profit plans on creating a pilot grant program to fund projects across the country that focus on ways of supporting sustainable local journalism. The grants will range from $25,000 to $100,000.
Additionally, a fellowship program featuring three to five fellows will be created as well. Those selected to participate will work on projects in areas such as design thinking and big data in news and monetization.
Earlier this year, the institute partnered with the Knight Foundation to launch a three-year, $4.8 million initiative to help newsrooms accelerate their shift from print to digital and improve engagement with readers and the community.
The initiative, which Friedlich described as being the institute’s “largest commitment to-date,” recently welcomed The Seattle Times, Bay Area News Group, Houston Chronicle and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel into its program.
The non-profit has also begun funding digital training for several hundred newsroom staffers at the Philadelphia Media Network.
“The program is in its early phases but the feedback from journalists and editors alike has been quite positive,” Friedlich said. “This and all of our work is conducted in the public interest, so there will be a report published at the end of this first phase of training summarizing its impact, strengths and areas for improvement.”