MacArthur Foundation: Grants for Journalism

OVERVIEW: MacArthur's grantmaking in public interest media is one of its longest-running and most widely-recognized areas of work. Its support of documentaries and news programs aimed at informing audiences about important social issues is part of the foundation's broader mission and goes hand in hand with many of its other program fields.

IP TAKE: MacArthur has gone through lots of changes lately, phasing out work in different areas, but funding for journalism and media has survived as one of its "enduring commitments."

PROFILE: The MacArthur Foundation's Journalism and Media program broadly aims to "strengthen American democracy by informing, engaging, and activating Americans through deep investments in independent journalism and media." This funder does a great job of describing its grantmaking on its website, and all research should start there. Begin by reading this strategy statement and then dig into the detailed grantmaking guidelines for this program.

MacArthur only supports journalism organizations, not individual journalists and documentarians, in three main areas:

  • Professional Nonprofit Reporting - This includes organizations that carry out nonprofit journalism in the US, address issues and challenges facing journalists, and support the infrastructure for journalism education and innovation.
  • Nonfiction Multimedia Storytelling - This includes organizations that fund, produce and distribute nonfiction narratives on contemporary social issues and that train, support, and provide infrastructure for people creating such narratives.
  • Civic Media - This includes organizations that support the use of media by organizations and individuals to bring about social change.

MacArthur does not accept unsolicited proposals, but inquiries may be sent here.

In the past MacArthur has been especially strong when it comes to documentary film. Since the mid 1980s, it has supported over 300 documentary projects: a cumulative investment of $50 million. However, currently it only supports filmmaking through its partner organizations, some of which, including the Sundance Institute and the Tribeca Film Institute, offer funding and support directly to individuals. 

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