Renaissance Journalism received a nice holiday surprise from Sisa-IN, a South Korean investigative reporting magazine, which featured our work in a story and video as part of a series about nonprofit journalism in the United States. In my conversation with the visiting Sisa-IN team, I noted that Renaissance Journalism and the others benefit from the presence of a strong philanthropic community, which South Korea lacks. And, it’s not just the money. We benefit when philanthropic leaders share their thinking and ideas and their networks of leaders and groups. We feel affirmed when funders embrace our vision that journalism is a powerful mechanism for advancing social justice. We are inspired by what we learn at the Knight Media Forum and the Media Impact Funders conferences; we grow from The Whitman Institute’s thoughtful conversations about trust-based philanthropy; we are grateful for the Ford Foundation’s leadership on media and equity; and we gain new insights and partners at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation’s convenings.
After a decade working to improve the news media, Renaissance Journalism finds itself as a subject of a news story. It’s about our efforts to track down and recover more than $600,000 in foundation funds that went missing. So far, it’s a story without an ending. The news article by The Chronicle of Philanthropy, "A Foundation Collapsed. Its Money Is Gone. What Happened Is Shrouded in Mystery," published on Sept. 12, 2019, focuses on the collapse of ZeroDivide, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization that worked on health and technology issues. Reporter Marc Gunther’s story asks how and why ZeroDivide, which started as a $50 million grantmaking foundation in 1998, reinvented itself into a grant-seeking nonprofit that eventually went broke in 2016. Renaissance Journalism became a part of the story because we had been operating as a fiscally sponsored project of ZeroDivide at the time.
When the Kerner Commission investigated racial strife in the United States, the members warned that “our nation is moving toward two societies, one black, one white—separate and unequal.” Furthermore, the commission excoriated journalists for ignoring African Americans’ complaints about police abuse, inferior schools and segregated housing. The commission stung U.S. journalists with this attack: “The media report and write from the standpoint of a white man’s world. The ills of the ghetto, the difficulties of life there, the Negro’s burning sense of grievance are seldom conveyed.” That was 50 years ago. The Kerner Commission was a blue-ribbon panel of prominent civic leaders appointed by President Johnson to investigate the problems that led to a series of riots—many called them “rebellions”—that burst out in cities across the country during the 1960s. In recent weeks there have been many events and campaigns to observe the Kerner Commission’s 50th anniversary.