The civic media crisis: what can be done?


The media, civil society, and democracy are under unprecedented duress around the world. It is important to see these phenomena as interconnected—to understand that the decline of the civic media poses a threat to civil society and, ultimately, to the democratic process itself, note analysts Bruce Sievers & Patrice Schneider.

Generating philanthropic support to respond to this crisis in civic communication would entail two fundamental commitments by funders, they write for the Stanford Social Innovation Review:

  • a commitment to direct support toward strengthening the media per se rather than to use the media for advancing another philanthropic cause (for example, environmental protection or improving public health), and
  • a commitment to maintaining a separation of control between the sources of financial support and the content produced by the supported organizations. Anya Scriffrin, director of technology, media, and advocacy specialization at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, explores the importance of both of these commitments extensively in a recent report issued by the Center for International Media Assistance and the National Endowment for Democracy [the Washington-based democracy assistance group].

Among various ideas proposed, they believe that five show particular promise:

  • Apply the Limited-Profit Limited Liability Company (L3C) corporate model to news organizations….
  • Take philanthropically minded ownership of news entities.
  • Fund experimentation with the creation of new types of news organizations.
  • Endow existing news organizations or other types of civic media.
  • Support the advancement of public discourse at all levels….



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