Journalism Needs to Reinvent Itself: A Q&A with OSF’s Maria Teresa Ronderos
How should philanthropies with limited resources act to stem the tide of a global recession in independent journalism? In recent years, an authoritarian crackdown on media across multiple continents has closed so much space for news and information that only 13 percent of the world’s population now lives in a country with a free press.
At roughly the same time, democracies and developing democracies have witnessed the collapse of those business models that used to sustain journalism. This has left media outlets vulnerable to influence by special interests while further cementing an ongoing crisis of trust vis-à-vis the public.
Up against challenges that dwarf the resources of the entire philanthropic sector, the Open Society Foundations (OSF), one of the largest private philanthropies supporting journalism globally, must selectively and strategically fund media to produce a visible impact. Initiatives aiming to bolster free and independent media have represented a strategic priority for OSF grant-making since the foundation was established by Hungarian-American financier George Soros in 1979.
Responding to a period of rapidly evolving threats to independent journalism, OSF altered its strategy for media development funding in 2014 by restructuring the foundation’s Media Department and rebranding it as the Program on Independent Journalism (PIJ). Backed by an annual budget of $13.2 million (2017), the PIJ marks a shift from the work of its predecessor as it has ceased working on media policy and reform issues to focus predominately on supporting newsrooms...