Open Society Foundations: Grants for Journalism

OVERVIEW: George Soros' Open Society Foundations fund a long list of grants, scholarships, and fellowships that serve countries throughout the world. Specific grants for journalism include the Supporting Independent Journalism and Innovation program and the Documentary Photography Project.

IP TAKE: The foundations’ support for journalism is not limited to the programs and fellowships listed below. Some of their other programs can occasionally have some overlap into journalism projects, so grantseekers should be sure to investigate other programs to find different angles of support.

PROFILE: The Open Society Foundations were created by George Soros in 1979. They work “to build vibrant and tolerant societies whose governments are accountable and open to the participation of all people” and seek “to strengthen the rule of law; respect for human rights, minorities, and a diversity of opinions; democratically elected governments; and a civil society that helps keep government power in check.” The programs specifically designed to support journalism projects are their Documentary Photography Project and the Program on Independent Journalism. Journalists are also eligible for Open Society Fellowship and the Soros Justice Fellowships.

The Documentary Photography Project supports exhibitions, under the title 'Moving Walls,' of "photo-based documentary projects that address a social justice or human rights issue in any region where the Open Society Foundations are active" (and this includes nearly the entire world). Every year approximately 5-10 photographers are selected. The foundation pays for printing, framing, exhibition fees, return shipment of photographs, and expenses for travel to and from exhibition events. Past grantees can be found here.

The Program for Independent Journalism operates in cooperation with various private and governmental donors in order to promote independent and "viable" media and journalism in emerging democracies. They focus on "the development of new ideas, breaking new ground, and taking advantage of digital revolution." The program prioritizes supporting news organizations and helping journalism start-ups and innovative and transparent news media maximize the impact of journalism. The grant inquiry form is here.

The Open Society Fellowship supports "individuals pursuing innovative and unconventional approaches to fundamental open society challenges." This can include publishing books, reports, blogs, developing public-education projects, or launching a new campaign or organization. The ideal applicant is an "idea entrepreneur," a problem solver who wants to challenge conventional wisdom. The stipends are either $80,000 or $100,000 depending on work experience, seniority, and current income. Full guidelines can be found here and tips for writing a successful proposal can be found here. Letters of inquiry may be submitted here.

The Soros Justice Fellowships fund individuals who "undertake projects that advance reform, spur debate, and catalyze change on a range of issues facing the U.S. criminal justice system." Media fellows receive between $58,700 and $110,250. The fellowship amount depends on the applicant's level of experience and expertise. The Media Fellowship includes writers, print and broadcast journalists, bloggers, filmmakers, and individuals "with distinctive voices" who propose media projects that will engage, inform, and spur debate and conversation around issues concerning the U.S. criminal Justice system, particularly around the issues of reducing mass incarceration, challenging extreme punishment, and promoting justice system accountability. The deadline for Soros Justice Fellowship applications is typically in mid-to-late October each year. Each fellowship is for 12 months and each fellow is expected to work on their project full-time during the term of the fellowship.

There are many other programs and initiatives the Foundations run that are not specifically journalism related, but they do have some potential overlap, the Information Program for example. See here for a full list.

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