Ten key principles for funders | #mediadev - media development insights and analysis | DW | 23.09.2019
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Funding of investigative journalism

Ten key principles for funders

Ten points on what to bear in mind when funding new projects based on advice from key actors.

in a shop in Bosten, a man reads an 2018 issue of The Boston Globe newspaper with headline Chruch covered up sex abuse, jury says

In 2018, reporters of The Boston Globe newspaper uncovered child abuse cases in the catholic church. How can investigative journalism be supported?

This list is part of DW Akademie's publication "How to fund investigative journalism".

  1. Have realistic expectations — the field is small, under-resourced, and faces many adversaries, but is tenacious and resourceful; even if you have to ask about ‘sustainability’, also try to think about ‘viability’.
  2. IJ is not easy or simple to fund as it differs from region to region, level to level — do your homework and due diligence, and make the application path as easy for the grantee as possible; unlike civil society, journalism groups are not fluent in donor language.
  3. Get advice and recommendations from peers and / or trusted advisors, including experienced players in the field — and share what you can (safely) so other funders can make use of it.
  4. Beware the “donor darling” effect — it can be tempting and more efficient to give to those with an established track record with other funders, but the IJ field needs new, different and diverse organizations and approaches, as the nature of its adversaries is also constantly evolving.
  5. Provide core funding if at all possible, and multi-year if you can — it protects IJ’s independence and gives it maximum operational flexibility, including experimenting. Resist the temptation to fund individual pieces of content or specific investigations.
  6. Be prepared to fund the “unsexy stuff” that grantees may not know they can ask for — a finance manager can be transformative, and supporting business/organizational development and building capacity within organizations can be incredibly valuable.
  7. Consider also supporting the infrastructure of the field, at all levels including the local — networks, conferences, fellowships, legal assistance funds, safety and security, technology development.
  8. Also be prepared for adverse public, political or even legal attention as a funder or investor supporting public-interest or investigative journalism — for example, some governments may try to restrict cross-border philanthropy.
  9. Be aware of your and your institution’s power — many funders unintentionally distort the incentives for IJ groups by providing thematically-focused funding, or expecting particular kinds of impact or collaboration.
  10. Be led by your grantees on how they think of impact, rather than dictating an impact framework, be mindful of overburdening them with bureaucratic demands, and be understanding that collecting data and determining impact in IJ is more art than science — and support them to buy in expertise, should they need it.

You can find more information about the support of investigative journalism in the media development field here.

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