A message of gratitude to our friends in philanthropy


By Jon Funabiki

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. We were flattered to be included alongside the Center for Investigative Reporting, Texas Tribune, Center for Public Integrity and others. Though we are much smaller, Sisa-IN zeroed in on our focus on equity and social justice issues.

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. There are many concrete examples: 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.

So please consider this post as a message of gratitude to our friends in philanthropy. Thanks to their help, the past year has been incredibly productive. A few highlights:

• Renaissance Journalism hosted roundtable conversations in San Antonio, Pittsburgh and Fresno as part of a 10-month study about how to improve news coverage of housing insecurity and affordability from a social justice perspective. We hope to stimulate better reporting on a growing, national crisis. Special thanks to the Ford Foundation’s Just Cities & Region’s Program, which commissioned the study, and to our local roundtable partners, The Heinz Endowments, The California Endowment and H. E. Butt Foundation.

• We launched a U.S. Census reporting project, inviting Bay Area news organizations to partner with community groups to ensure that immigrants and other hard-to-count groups. It’s important for the Census to count everyone. The idea grew out of a convening we hosted in partnership with Silicon Valley Community Foundation’s Census 2020 program.

• We joined the Center for Investigative Reporting, San Jose Mercury, KQED, NBC and Telemundo in a project called “Who Owns Silicon Valley?” It’s part of our continuing focus on the housing problems specific to the Bay Area. Our thanks to Silicon Valley Community Foundation and The California Endowment for making our participation possible.

• We supported a study to determine whether the creation of a media cooperative would help sustain small, community and ethnic newspapers. To do this, we tapped into a grant from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation’s Initiatives and Special Projects Program. There’s a desperate need to shore up vital, community-based media.

Renaissance Journalism also receives support from the Ford Foundation’s Creativity & Free Expression Program, Heising-Simons Foundation, Nathan Cummings Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation and others. Philanthropic support will enable us to expand our operations in 2020 with a more robust national fellowships program to assist journalists and storytellers digging into problems of social injustice and inequality. Please stay tuned!