How the Wyncote Foundation is Changing Public Media

Philanthropic foundations are awarding grants to public media initiates more than ever before, and the Wyncote Foundation is at the forefront of the trend. According to a November 2013 Foundation Center report, “Growth in Foundation Support for Media in the United States,” media-related grantmaking grew at a higher rate than the overall domestic grantmaking between 2009 and 2011. Media grantmaking is typically divided into five categories:

  • Media access and policy
  • Journalism, news, and information
  • Media applications and tools
  • Media platforms
  • Telecommunications infrastructure

Among several media-related grants in 2013, the Wyncote Foundation awarded a $750,000 grant to Frontline, a documentary series that collaborates with big-name news organizations on multi-platform projects. Wyncote, which primarily supports public media, journalism, education, health, human services, and arts & culture causes around Philadelphia, saw an opportunity to enhance Frontline's programming.

Feather Houstoun, the foundation’s senior advisor on public media and journalism, told Current, “Wyncote decided to make this grant because we believe that the Frontline team is working to internalize collaborative journalism into their enterprise DNA. The collaboration desk is a combination of re-purposed and new resources that should, over course of the grant, give Frontline leadership the time and room to make this second nature in the way they do their work.”

Wyncote's financial commitment will pay for Frontline's first official desk, run by four staff members. Two will be new hires and the other two will be the realignment of two existing jobs, an interactive designer and a story editor. Frontline's deputy executive producer, Raney Aronson, said that the Wyncote grant will help them “re-frame our partnerships to make them less siloed, and more transmedia. We want to innovate in that area, journalistically as well as creatively."

A recent Chronicle of Philanthropy article explored how grants were expanding for media projects that push for social change. Recent Pew Internet & American Life Project data also revealed that over two-thirds of adults in the U.S. access news through web-based sources and mobile media, and that at least 80% of U.S. adults either have Internet access at home or a use smartphone. The influence of modern media on our choices we make and opinions should come as no surprise.

As Media Impact Funders' Vincent Stehle points out, one of the most dynamic areas of media philanthropy is assessing the impact of media activities. It's no longer sufficient to simply pay attention to who is watching what. Rather, philanthropies like the Wyncote Foundation are helping media outlets understand how audiences are responding to social campaigns and what, if any, actions they are taking after being inspired by the programming.