How does philanthropy support science journalism?

Among the many economic changes brought about by the explosion of the Internet in the first decades of this century is the ad-driven business model that underpinned most newspapers and publications for decades. there was a collapse. Remember when ad revenue plummeted to multi-page classified ads, car ads, and washing machine ads? It has led to the collapse of newsrooms and massive cuts in newspaper staff across the country. Despite the fact that much of the news-consuming public has come to accept the concept of paying for digital content, newspapers and magazines are struggling to generate the income needed to research, report, and produce articles and other content. I am still struggling.

Fortunately, philanthropy for journalism and non-fiction media has actually increased in recent years, helping society to have a reliable source of information about what is happening in the world. For more on philanthropy for journalism, read the report “Giving for Journalism and Public Media,” an article in White’s paper in Inside Philanthropy’s State of American Philanthropy series.

Among the important topics journalists cover, science reporting presents unique challenges. It’s all too easy to write or report about science inaccurately, or to accurately report the facts, but miss the real point. I struggle to understand the details of the cure and medicines for , and why 1 degree global warming is so important to the fate of the world. Meanwhile, science journalism in mainstream news outlets has plummeted in recent decades as budgets have shrunk.

Here are some of the ways funders and donors are supporting the field:

Topic-specific media funding

Funding for philanthropy flows into science journalism through several pipelines. For one thing, there has been a surge in funding for topical journalism, aligned with the interests of donors and foundations. Yes, this has raised concerns about editorial independence, but as a result of shrinking press budgets, it has also expanded opportunities for journalism on topics that might otherwise be marginalized.

For example, we have seen large-scale philanthropic funding to expand the science reporting capacity of existing news outlets on climate change. Earlier this year, he reported to the AP that he would be offering $8 million in grants over three years to expand coverage on climate change. Funding came from his five large foundations: the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Quadrivium, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Walton Family Foundation.

The Gates Foundation, a leading funder of science, climate and health research, has reportedly given $250 million to media grantees, including major national and global media outlets such as NBC and BBC. (or more) donated. It’s hard to say how much of that donation went to science, climate, or health journalism, but one result of that substantial donation is that such support is more friendly and less objective. It’s the criticism that generated the Gates Foundation’s reporting.

White papers on the above topics have also covered this subject and published papers on religion (Lilly Endowment), education (Lumina Foundation), health (California Wellness Foundation, Annie E. Casey Foundation, Association of Health Care Journalists, Helmsley Trust), and environment and science. (Earth Journalism Network, Walton Family Foundation, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Fund for Environmental Journalism).

Other science funders, such as the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, devote resources to public understanding of science through a variety of popular media. Sloan funds science communication through popular radio shows such as Science Friday and his Radiolab, television and film projects such as documentaries on PBS, books on science and technology, and other media projects.

In addition, there are charities that recognize good science reporting. For example, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), together with the Kavli Foundation, itself a prominent funder of scientific research, offers the AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Award each year. Given to individuals, these awards range from $3,500 to $5,000 and recognize outstanding achievements in science journalism.

training and education

But science journalism needs more than just salary money. The complex and academic nature of the subject matter involved often requires special grounding and education on the part of journalists themselves. Accurately reporting on these subjects is difficult without solid college-level scientific training or a level of experience that provides an equivalent understanding of how scientific processes work. There are cases.

Kavli runs an open notebook science journalism masterclass. This is a free course designed to improve the skills of science journalists. Other supportive and educational efforts have come from various national and international science and journalism associations, including the National Association of Science Writers, the Healthcare Journalists Association, and the World Federation of Science Journalists, funded by philanthropic efforts. are getting a part of

A variety of fellowships are available to science journalists and writers from charitable and educational organizations spanning a variety of science and health topics. Some institutions, such as the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s Ocean Science Journalism Fellowship, offer short workshops and other programs lasting from one week to two months to help writers learn about specific subjects and scientific disciplines. I have. For example, the University of Rhode Island’s Metcalfe Institute offers training in environmental journalism and traditionally offers underrepresented journalists a writing fellowship on the environment. MIT’s Night Science Journalism Program offers several fellowships, including her one-year residency designed to give science journalists the opportunity to delve into specific subjects and topics.

The University of California, Berkeley School of Journalism recruits mid-career print and audio journalists through a $10,000 annual fellowship designed to report on food systems and policy, including agriculture and nutrition, the food industry, food science, and related issues. We support this.


Vincent Stehle, Executive Director of Media Impact Funders, tracks the world of media and philanthropy. He noted the growing role of intermediaries in channeling philanthropic funds to science journalism and journalists. “There is an important function of intermediaries that help translate scientific knowledge from research and academia to the average person,” he said. It’s a very important feature for scientific topics.”

One such intermediary is Climate Central, says Stehle. Climate Central is a non-profit organization of scientists and communicators who create stories and visual media that communicate the impacts of climate change to a general audience. They work with journalists, including meteorologists, to give the public an accurate picture of climate change science.

Climate Central solicits donations from the public to support the program, but many large charities and other funders also contribute to the nonprofit’s operations. For example, Climate Central’s sea level rise program is supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Eric and Wendy Schmidt Fund for Strategic Innovation, George H. and Estelle M. Sands Foundation, JPB Foundation, Kresge Foundation, and National Science. Foundations, Prince Albert II Foundation of Monaco, Robert G. and Ellen S. Gutenstein Family Foundation, Summit Foundation, Sustainable Market Foundation, Tiger Baron Foundation, V. Kan Rasmussen Foundation. Between 2015 and his 2020, the MacArthur Foundation donated his $6 million to Climate His Central.

SciLine is another intermediary nonprofit that brings philanthropy to science journalism. This organization offers many services. In particular, we match journalists with scientists who can explain not only the facts but also the context. This provides the true meaning and meaning of science news and information. The organization says it has about 20,000 professionals in the United States and Canada to assist journalists.

Like Climate Central, a number of traditional science-funding oriented philanthropic organizations support SciLine, including the Quadrivium Foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, MAC3 Impact Philanthropies, Daniel Pinkel, Rita Allen Foundation, Schmidt, and others. Family Foundation, Google News Initiative, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Heinz Endowments, Zakaria Family Foundation, Leo Model Foundation.

Science has always been an important part of modern society, but with all forces rapidly changing the world and people’s lives, more people than ever have access to clear, reliable, and unambiguous scientific reporting. It’s no exaggeration to say that you want it.

“Whether it’s because we’ve all experienced a pandemic, or because the impacts of climate change on our lives are increasing in frequency and pervasiveness, the urgency of understanding is increasing,” Steal said. “And I think the philanthropic involvement of directing resources to provide greater understanding and insight really drives a lot of interest in journalism and communications.”

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