A Philanthropy-Backed Journalism Fellowship Spotlights Equitable Climate Solutions

 photo:  GlennV/shutterstock

photo:  GlennV/shutterstock

In Appalachia, community activists are working to reclaim corporate-owned coal mining land to benefit locals. In Florida and beyond, grassroots groups are organizing post-storm disaster response that offers a vision of a just society. Around the country, disenfranchised people are forming worker-owned cooperatives to reshape struggling local economies. 

These are the kinds of encouraging stories that are happening amid dark political times, economic inequality, and the specter of climate change, and one philanthropy-backed journalism fellowship is funding reporters to tell them. With support from two foundations, the New Economies Reporting Project is continuing in 2018 with its second cohort, and the theme is just solutions to climate change. 

The fellowship recently announced 14 new recipients, from freelancers to network TV reporters, to “increase the quantity and quality of journalism focused on local, regional and national climate solutions, especially stories that connect these solutions to the need and possibility of systemic change.” 

It's supported by two foundations—the Park Foundation and New Visions Foundation. Park will be a familiar name in media philanthropy, as the Ithaca, New York-based progressive funder has a long-running program in public interest media. It's also an active environmental funder, as we've reported. New Visions Foundation is a small funder based in Illinois, without much public-facing presence, but giving a mix of social justice, education and environmental grants in recent years. 

The fellowship is a joint project of the New Economy Coalition and the Media Consortium. The former is a network of over 200 groups working on systemic change in the economy and politics, focusing on justice, sustainability and democracy. Most of its support comes from foundations, such as the Chorus Foundation, Solidaire, and NoVo Foundation, and other initiatives include a regranting program and several topical working groups. The Media Consortium is a network of community and independent news outlets, with foundation supporters including Wallace Global Fund and the Media Democracy Fund, itself a regranting outfit backed by Hewlett, Ford and others. 

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The New Economies Reporting Project is at the intersection of a couple of trends in philanthropy. For one, there’s a niche within climate philanthropy in support of work toward a just transition, the idea that as we move to a more sustainable, low-carbon economy, we need to ensure it's also equitable and benefiting communities. Such grantmaking, still a very small sliver within environmental philanthropy, often goes to community groups and those in marginalized communities, for a lot of power-building and grassroots organizing work. 

And, of course, media funding itself has been huge topic of interest for a whole set of funders, heightened in the Trump era. While it’s common for media philanthropy to back work around a certain issue like healthcare or the environment, this fellowship is unique, given its support for reporting on often-overlooked climate stories by independent journalists and those working at a diverse mix of outlets. 

When you start to hear about the kind of bottom-up work people are doing in communities, which is often tightly connected to public health, housing, labor and more, it can provide a three-dimensional picture of climate change beyond talk of markets and models. That's the kind of storytelling that's potentially powerful for both environmental journalism and climate action.

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