Visual media organization CatchLight has received a collective investment of $7.5 million to fund the national expansion of its collaborative model, CatchLight Local: Visual Journalism Initiative, including $1 million from the newly formed philanthropic partnership Press Forward, with funding from the MacArthur Foundation, as part of its first cohort of grantees. Additional investors in the initiative include the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Arnold Ventures, the Kresge Foundation, the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation, the Enlight Foundation and PhotoWings.
This three-year investment will be directed toward the CatchLight Local Visual Desk, a visual journalism initiative offering services, tools and expertise that is designed to augment and enhance the efforts of local news organizations to produce locally relevant and representative visual news and content. This unprecedented backing will allow CatchLight to aim to serve 90 newsrooms across the United States by 2027 as members of its Visual Desk.
It will also help fund the Local Fellowship program, which helps place visual reporters full-time in newsrooms for two years.
With this funding, CatchLight will build on the success of pilot programs in the Bay Area and Chicago and the ongoing Local program in California launched in June 2022. The program’s current newsroom partners include Black Voice News, India Currents, Bay City News, Berkeleyside, Oaklandside, CalMatters, El Tecolote, El Tímpano and Down in the County. From extreme weather impacts and community events to wage theft, land protection and health care, CatchLight Local Fellows have covered hundreds of stories that reached a combined audience of over 12 million readers in the past year and a half. Today, CatchLight Local Fellows constitute one of the largest visual investigative units in the United States.
Through its Local Visual Journalism Initiative, CatchLight is actively enabling local newsrooms to access the impactful tools of visual journalism, aiming to significantly increase their visual capacity at affordable rates with an eye on long-term sustainability. The Local initiative provides access to a shared Visual Desk with dedicated editorial support, offers training to integrate visual-first practices for higher engagement and audience building, and establishes strategic partnerships to expand visual offerings. Additionally, continuing in 2025 and in two-year cycles, CatchLight will continue to help subsidize the salary of at least 10 staff visual journalists to be placed in local newsrooms across the country, bringing the total number of staff journalists it has helped place to 30 by 2027.
“Building on the first two years of the CatchLight Local California Visual Desk, we are thrilled to be making this investment towards a national expansion as a testament to the critical role that visual journalism plays in today’s information ecosystem and in the future of local news.” — Jim Brady, vice president of journalism for the Knight Foundation
“At Black Voice News we understand the profound impact of visual storytelling and adding a CatchLight Fellow to our newsroom has not only enhanced the depth and immediacy of our reporting but has empowered us to connect more emotionally with our audience. Our photojournalism has allowed us to illuminate the voices, experiences and issues that matter most to our community, ensuring that their stories are not just heard, but truly seen.” — Paulette Brown-Hinds, publisher of Black Voice News
CatchLight’s vision, as a transformative visual media organization, is to reshape U.S. local journalism. Through embracing visual-first methods, it seeks to enhance information delivery, audience engagement and trust amidst rising disinformation. This includes the development of its sustainable cost-sharing model, enabling even the smallest newsrooms with vital visual resources to increase civic engagement, community representation and build trust within the communities they serve. Anchored by the Local Visual Journalism Initiative and enhanced by the Global Fellows’ innovative practices and initiatives like the Visual Storytelling Summit, CatchLight pioneers impactful visual storytelling across arts, journalism and technology.
CatchLight is a visual-first media organization that leverages the power of visual storytelling to inform, connect and transform communities. We bring resources and organizations together to discover, develop and amplify visual storytellers at all levels. The organization invests in the future of visual storytelling through its programs. The CatchLight Local Visual Journalism Initiative seeks to establish the sustainability of visual ournalism by providing inclusive, accurate and locally contextualized information to the public through the Visual Desk, offering editorial support, training and strategic partnerships. The CatchLight Global Fellowship annually provides three visionaries in the field grants to develop long-form storytelling projects, engage audiences and continue their work as innovators and leaders defining the future of the field. For more information, visit www.catchlight.io
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