Great journalism costs money.
This is more true today than ever, as the field shifts heavily to digital and mobile innovation.
Journalists are crafting bold data experiments, exploring immersive storytelling tools — like drones, 360° video, and virtual reality — and learning to code.
At the same time, news organizations are struggling to replace the rapidly disappearing revenue they used to get from traditional advertising.
So where does the money come from for innovative stories?
But, this doesn’t necessarily mean more access to funds for stories. For the full-time local journalist and independent freelancer especially, it can be challenging to secure budget.
If you want to get adventurous with your reporting, but the money isn’t there, here are some grant programs funding stories for journalists that might not otherwise be told.
1. For pros wanting a better journalistic tomorrow.
The Scripps Howard Foundation focuses on journalistic excellence and thriving communities. It offers grants for non-profits, employee programs, and journalism. “Our grants have given professional journalists the information they need to cover controversial issues with insight and integrity, helped others refresh their skill sets or prepare for entirely new careers in journalism, and supported the foundations of a free press,” says the site. Applications for the second half of the year are due by Oct. 15.
2. For journalists with an awesome idea.
The Awesome Foundation gives no-strings cash to great ideas. Trustees at the group’s 85 chapters contribute money for micro-grants. Together, they decide which projects are awesome enough to get support. “We give $1,000 micro-grants to a journalism project that commits a crazy, brilliant, positive act of journalism in the public interest,” says the site’s dedicated journalism page. “The definition of ‘awesome’ is intentionally left vague and up to the imagination.” The journalism-specific division needs some support, but that shouldn’t stop you. Grants are available to anyone, anywhere, in any medium. Bonus: You can apply at any time to any chapter.
3. For reporters exploring new territory.
Uncharted Journalism Fund is a people-powered fund out of British Columbia. Based off the Awesome Foundation model (Uncharted’s co-creator Phillip Smith was a founding trustee of AF Toronto), it has a small collective of trustees who provide $2,000 to $3,000 grants to directly support experimental and enterprising reporting projects. Smith says he wants to “agitate for bold experiments.” If you have an ambitious idea that could help discover new frontiers in reporting, this grant is for you. The second round of applications now is open: Apply by midnight Sept. 11.
4. For investigators who want to expose wrongdoing.
The Fund for Investigative Journalism considers grant applications for investigative projects and “stories that break new ground and expose wrongdoing – such as corruption, malfeasance, or misuse of power – in the public and private sectors,” according to the site. The maximum grant is $10,000 and covers out-of-pocket expenses such as travel, equipment rental, and document collection. The deadline for the final round of 2017 applications is Sept. 25.
5. For storytellers amplifying women’s voices in media.
Howard G. Buffett Fund for Women Journalists is a program by the International Women’s Media Foundation. “Promoting the work and advancing the role of women in the news media across the globe is critical to transparency and a diversity of voices,” says the site. Established with a $4 million gift from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, this first-of-its-kind initiative supports projects, ranging from educational opportunities to investigative reporting and media development initiatives. Funding rounds open for applications in January and June of every year.
6. For photographers who want to create change with their stories.
The Alexia Grants is named for Alexia Tsairis, a Syracuse University student killed in the 1988 Lockerbie Bombing. According to the site, Alexia Foundation offers production grants to students and professional photographers to help them “produce substantial stories that drive change in the effort to make the world a better place.” Each applicant submits a written proposal for a still or motion body of work that promotes world peace and cultural understanding. Images that demonstrate your ability to accomplish the project also are requested. The 2017 applications were due starting in January. Stay tuned for 2018 details.
7. For photojournalists managing in-depth assignments.
Getty Images offers five $10,000 editorial grants for independent photojournalists who are pursuing work personally important to them. “Our dedication to excellence in photojournalism means we understand that creating and managing in-depth photography assignments requires time, freedom, support and considerable resources,” says the site. Grant selection will be based on the applicant’s ability to execute the proposed project with a compelling visual narrative in a documentary feature format. Judges take into account the caliber of portfolio, the project’s merit, and professional ability. Stay tuned for 2018 application instructions.
8. For crisis reporters covering news outside the U.S.
The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting funds “international travel costs associated with reporting projects on topics and regions of global importance, with an emphasis on issues that have gone unreported or under-reported in the mainstream American media,” says the site. The amount awarded depends on the specific project, but most awards fall in the range of $5,000 to $15,000. The center’s ideal project offers print, photography, radio, and video. The deadline is rolling. Apply anytime.
9. For documentary filmmakers with a journalistic background.
The Bertha Doc Society Journalism Fund is an international film fund that supports long-form feature documentaries of a journalistic nature. It’s a collaborative effort by Doc Society and the Bertha Foundation. “We are looking for films that break the important stories of our time, expose injustice, bring attention to unreported issues and cameras into regions previously unseen,” says the site. This also is a rolling fund, so you can apply at anytime.
10. For individuals who want to drive innovation in digital news.
The Digital News Initiative (DNI) is a partnership between Google and publishers in Europe to support high-quality journalism through technology and innovation. Its fund supports innovation in digital news journalism. According to the site, the grant is available to EU or EFTA residents who “aim to produce original journalism and to enlighten citizens with trustworthy journalistic content, whose projects focus on encouraging a more sustainable news ecosystem.” Projects are evaluated against three main criteria: impact, innovation, and feasibility. The latest application round is open from Sept. 13 until Oct. 12.
11. For journalists with out-of-the-box stories on international development.
Journalism Grants is funding innovative reporting worldwide. “At a time when many media organisations face financial constraints, the grant programme aims to encourage media houses to go beyond their usual reporting approaches and thus set a new and distinctive agenda for development coverage,” says the site. The organization is currently running three programs, operated by the European Journalism Centre and supported by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Deadlines for the The Innovation in Development Reporting Grant and The Global Health Journalism Grant for Germany are coming up in September. The deadline for The European Publishers Longterm Reporting Grant just passed.
12. For talented emerging photographers seeking mentorship.
Getty Images also offers an opportunity for young photographers, as a complement to their editorial grant program for seasoned photojournalists. The award will be judged based on the strength of the photographer’s work. Recipients of the award will receive mentoring and editorial support from Getty Images Reportage editors and see their work featured on Reportage for one year. They’ll also be promoted on social media and industry publications. The application period has been delayed until fall. Watch the site for more information.
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Anna Jasinski is senior manager of audience relations at PR Newswire and former magazine journalist. Follow her on Twitter at @annamjasinski. You can also catch her sharing the latest news in journalism and blogging on @BeyondBylines.