OVERVIEW: George Soros' Open Society Foundations has an arm's-length list of grants, scholarships, and fellowships that serve countries throughout the world. Specific grants for journalism include their Supporting Independent Journalism and Innovation program, and their Documentary Photography Project.
IP TAKE: The support for journalism that the Open Society Foundations gives isn't limited to the two programs and fellowships listed below. Some of their other programs can occasionally have some overlap into journalism projects, so be sure to investigate other programs to find different angles of support.
PROFILE: The two main Open Society Foundation 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 winners can be found here.
The Program for Independent Journalism is done in cooperation with various private and governmental donors, with a goal of promoting 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 main areas this program is focused on supporting of news organizations, helping journalism start-ups and helping innovative and transparent news media to maximize the impact of journalism. You can find the grant inquiry form here.
The Open Society Fellowship is given in support of "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," who is a problem solver and 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 are meant to 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 awarded 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 are proposing 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 to last 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 aren't specifically journalism related, but do have some potential overlap, like their Information Program. See here for a full list.
- Yukiko Yamagata, Acting Interim Director, Documentary Photography Project
- Maria Teresa Ronderos, Director, Program on Independent Journalism
- Leonard Bernado, Regional Director, Eurasia, and Director, Open Society Fellowship
- James Goldston, Executive Director, Open Society Justice Initiative