Canadian Public Interest Journalism and the Philanthropic Sector

In June 2018, the McConnell Family Foundation convened a meeting to discuss and review the landscape of philanthropic involvement in Canadian public interest journalism. McConnell’s interest in this subject is ingrained in the organization’s history, as its founder was a former publisher of the Montreal Star. Most recently, the Foundation has been interested in building ecosystems in order to accelerate and collaborate with peers. The organization’s related interests in solutions journalism was also a driving factor for this project. The Foundation believes that a thriving fourth estate enables foundations to better do their work by informing the public and raising awareness.

In Canada and around the world, traditional media are in a time of disruption. The move to a digital-first environment, paired with new audience behaviours, have challenged business models and revenue streams. This disruption has raised important questions about the future of journalism given its role in holding governments to account and sharing community stories.

Journalism and philanthropy each play a role in shaping a better society. As media evolves, foundations are actively evaluating what kind of involvement they might have in the future. Some are interested in helping revitalize and strengthen the core tenets of journalism: holding power to account and serving the public interest. Others see opportunity in this time of change to correct inequities in the makeup of newsrooms, or to ensure the quality of journalists is better as the quantity decreases. As new business models and storytelling methods emerge, many are interested in giving a voice and a platform to those who have been under-represented.

In addition to discussing several convening questions, the group also heard from representatives from the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Public Policy Forum.

This document outlines some of the broad themes that emerged as a result of this discussion.

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