Racial Equity in Journalism Fund Awards $2.3 Million to News Organizations Led By and For Communities of Color

April 6, 2020

The Racial Equity in Journalism (REJ) Fund at Borealis Philanthropy has awarded $2.3 million in grants to 16 news organizations serving communities of color across the country.

“The COVID-19 global pandemic and the sometimes overwhelming stream of information makes clear the need for trusted news sources that prioritize the needs of underserved communities, who will be among the most impacted,” said Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist and Craig Newmark Philanthropies. “During times of crisis, critical resources, supplies and attention are mostly aimed at the advantaged. The Racial Equity in Journalism Fund will bolster a strong, diverse, and independent media sector serving the public interest, at a time when communities of color need these outlets the most.”

The REJ Fund, launched in September 2019, seeks to bolster the capacity and sustainability of news organizations led by people of color and partners in equity in order to increase civic engagement for communities of color.

The Fund’s inaugural grantee cohort all serve audiences who have been historically underserved by mainstream media: Black, Native, and Latinx people, immigrants, refugees, rural communities, and poor and low-income people. Grantees also represent a wide range of geographic areas throughout the country: California, Georgia, Illinois, Tennessee, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and the Northern Great Plains region. Recognizing that journalism takes on many forms, the Fund is resourcing news organizations utilizing a variety of mediums including print, digital, radio, video, and more. The Fund also prioritizes investment in local media and outlets in news deserts—outlets that have always been essential and are especially critical during a public health crisis.

“The value of our voices in media has nothing to do with fairness or the abstract concept of “diversity.” It is about the survival and the legitimacy of the national media landscape,” said Michael Harriott, senior writer at TheRoot.com and co-founder of VerySmartBrothas.com. “When our voices are excluded from America’s narrative, it means, by definition, the world only knows one side of every story. This is about more than equity. It is about accuracy.”

The REJ fund prioritizes investment in media outlets providing timely and important news to communities who are most undeserved and who face the greatest barriers in receiving public affairs information. In order to best reach these communities, REJ Fund grantees are developing innovative approaches, including delivering news via WhatsApp and text messaging, training citizen journalists, hiring engagement reporters, and branching out into podcasts, zines, and community events.

A study commissioned by the Fund in August 2019 to develop an understanding of the current landscape of news media outlets led by and serving communities of color found that 63 percent of outlets surveyed cited limited revenue sources as the greatest challenge to long-term sustainability.

Therefore, grantees will also use support from the REJ Fund to identify how to make their business models more sustainable in the long-term. For example, news organizations will use REJ Fund grants to hire development staff, conduct advertising experiments, implement membership models, and more.

The Racial Equity in Journalism Fund is a donor collaborative housed at Borealis Philanthropy. Current donors include the American Journalism Project, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, Democracy Fund, the Ford Foundation, the Google News Initiative, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the News Integrity Initiative at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY.

If you are interested in receiving updates about the Fund, please sign up on Borealis’ email list. To learn more about the fund and how to support its work, please contact Program Officer Tracie Powell: tpowell@borealisphilanthropy.org

Learn more about the REJ Fund’s inaugural grantee cohort:

The Atlanta Voice: For more than 50 years, The Atlanta Voice has ably provided a voice for the voiceless without fear or favor. It is the largest audited African American community newspaper in Georgia with over 600 distribution locations throughout the Atlanta metropolitan area, with digital distribution, email, social and mobile apps.

Borderless Magazine: Borderless Magazine is a nonprofit news outlet that is reimagining immigration journalism for a more just and equitable future. Founded by three award-winning Chicago journalists in 2017, Borderless is driven by an urgent desire to create space in the immigration debate for empathy and civic engagement.

Buffalo’s Fire: The publishing arm of the Indigenous Media Freedom Alliance (IMFA), Buffalo’s Fire provides quality video news to tribal communities in the Northern Great Plains. It seeks to fill information gaps for American Indians, particularly those living in rural areas.

Documented: Documented is a nonprofit newsroom dedicated to covering New York City’s immigrants and the policies that affect their lives. It details how shifts in immigration policy are playing out locally, on issues such as immigration enforcement, labor and city and state policies. Documented also deploys a newsletter using WhatsApp to engage with and provide up-to-date news and information to New York’s immigrant communities.

Flint Beat: Flint Beat was launched in 2017 to fill news gaps in an underserved community after Flint, Mich. residents said they needed more from their news coverage during the city’s water crisis. Flint Beat covers everything Flint including local news, politics, education and community leaders.

El Informador: Based in Charleston, SC, El Informador is the largest Spanish newspaper serving the Charleston Metro and Hilton Head Island, reaching the fastest growing Latino market in the state’s Lowcountry region. Working together with the local Latino community, it provides local, national and international news to keep them well informed.

La Noticia: La Noticia is a Spanish-language news organization that serves 300,000 Latinos in Charlotte, Winston-Salem and Raleigh. Its mission is to deliver high quality news and information that helps Latinos in the North Carolina region be productive members of society.

MLK50: Justice Through Journalism: Founded in 2017 in advance of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., MLK50 centers narratives that reflect the demographics of Memphis, which is 65% Black. MLK50 also focuses on those who live on the margins in this country’s second poorest large city, where 1 in 4 residents live below the poverty line.

The New York Amsterdam News: The New York Amsterdam News was one of the first unionized Black newspapers in the country. Its mission is to be the voice of the often voiceless and to magnify issues that most deeply impact communities of color in New York, the United States, and around the world.

PULSO: Pulso is a digital media news, culture and entertainment social enterprise by Latinos, for Latinos, dedicated to keeping the pulse on nuestra gente.

PushBlack: PushBlack is the largest non-profit news and media platform for Black-Americans. It has trusted relationships with its community and encourages Black people to take action in civically shaping the kinds of communities they want to live in.

Qcitymetro: Qcitymetro exists to serve the needs of Black Charlotte, NC. Its mission is to provide this audience with the news and information it needs to thrive as a community of informed residents, voters, consumers and leaders.

Sahan Journal: Sahan Journal seeks to provide fair, groundbreaking news coverage that illuminates issues affecting Minnesota’s immigrants and refugees and to chronicle how these communities are changing and redefining what it means to be a Minnesotan.

El Tecolote: El Tecolote is a community journalist effort, a training ground for journalism, and plays an important role in the San Francisco Bay Area by covering issues often ignored by the mainstream press. It is a biweekly publication with a circulation of 10,000, and is the longest running Spanish/English bilingual newspaper in California.

The TRiiBE: The TRiiBE is a digital publication and production company whose mission is to reshape the narrative of Black Chicago and to give ownership back to the people. The TRiiBE is a producer and curator of original content about issues, experiences and communities that are being left out of mainstream conversations.

WURD Radio: WURD Radio is the only African-American owned and operated commercial talk radio station in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Started in 2002, WURD has evolved into a multimedia, multi-platform communications company that reaches deeply into the Black community through radio, events, digital and social media.