For a long time, it seemed philanthropists didn’t seem to pay much attention to media — preferring direct services, capacity-building, policy and advocacy work instead.

That seems to have changed quite a bit in recent years. And yet, not too long ago, Inside Philanthropy noted that media was little more than a side project for most philanthropies, even as non-profit media outlets were proliferating and in most cases were dependent on private funding.

And so it’s worth noting that that Media Impact Funders — a group of philanthropies interested in “impactful” media efforts — issued a report a few days ago.

As written up by Reveal, the report shows that media is central to philanthropic strategies.

Central? Is that really true?

Sort of. A closer reading of the report reveals that the umbrella term “media” doesn’t just mean journalism, and that funding for journalism is actually trending downwards.

As the report introduction notes, “most of the growth we’ve seen has been in the Media Content and Platforms category, which includes content and delivery projects such as web-based and mobile media, documentary film and television.”

Still, some folks you might expect — EWA, EPE, Hechinger, Chalkbeat — have been raking in big money.

According to the report, US foundations gave “more than $5.5 billion in media grants to more than 10,000 organizations” between 2009 and 2013.

However, the report’s definition of media is a broad one, including everything from documentary filmmaking to media tools and applications.

“While support for projects on journalism, news and information in general has remained steady, all other subsets of journalism funding—advocacy journalism, citizen journalism, constituency journalism, investigative journalism and journalism education—have increased.”

The black bar at bottom of the following graph shows where journalism fits in the world of media grantmaking:


Funding for journalism actually decreased a bit, from $223 million in 2011 to $189 million in 2013:


Within journalism, here’s a look at the different categories of efforts that are being funded:


Of course, none of that means that journalism outlets aren’t getting funded.

According to the updated Foundation Map, EWA has received nearly $5 million in grants from 34 different funders during the covered time period.

Hechinger has received 10 grants totaling more than $2.4 million.

Teachers College has received just over $2 million in media grants from seven different funders.

EPE (EdWeek’s umbrella organization) raked in $1.8 million from five different sources.

Chalkbeat has received five grants totaling more than $600,000.

These figures may not match up with others due to the date ranges and categorizations being used.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Alexander Russo is a freelance education writer who has created several long-running blogs such as the national news site This Week In Education, District 299 (about Chicago schools), and LA School Report. He can be reached on Twitter at @alexanderrusso, on Facebook, or directly at