Liberal Philanthropies Fund The Latest ‘Non-Partisan’ Journalism Initiative

Press Forward's drive to save local news is bankrolled by Pierre Omidyar's Democracy Fund, among others

Left-wing billionaire Pierre Omidyar at the 2010 Clinton Global Initiative / Getty Images
September 7, 2023

A consortium of philanthropies on Thursday launched a "non-partisan" journalism initiative to "reverse the dramatic decline" in local news. The roster of nearly two dozen donors includes some of the country’s biggest liberal philanthropies, raising questions about the group’s pledge to remain "independent of ideology."

Press Forward plans to spend $500 million over the next five years to fund local news organizations in order to "strengthen communities and democracy" and provide an "active pushback" against disinformation "in the media ecosystem." The group hopes to fill a vacuum of local news coverage after the closure of 2,200 local newspapers over the past two decades. The proliferation of so-called news deserts has coincided with "an increasingly divided America and weakening trust in institutions," Press Forward said.

But the ambitious journalism initiative seems unlikely to repair an ideologically divided America. Though Press Forward says it will emphasize nonpartisanship, a claim echoed in media coverage of the project, its donors fund many ideological causes—mostly those on the liberal end of the political spectrum.

Prominent donors to Press Forward include liberal charities like the Democracy Fund, Ford Foundation, and MacArthur Foundation. The Democracy Fund, backed by liberal billionaire Pierre Omidyar, supports liberal news outlets like Mother Jones and gave $1.5 million to former Hillary Clinton campaign attorney Marc Elias. The Ford Foundation funded the work of 1619 Project creator Nikole Hannah-Jones, and the MacArthur Foundation recently awarded grants to TransLash Media, a startup behind the podcast "The Anti-Trans Hate Machine."

Influence Watch, which tracks nonprofit groups, assesses that Press Forward donors like the McKnight Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Joyce Foundation, Lumina Foundation, and Rita Allen Foundation support left-of-center causes related to the environment, racial issues, and gun control.

Press Forward is the latest philanthropy to fund a news endeavor. Democratic megadonors George Soros and Reid Hoffman have poured millions of dollars into a Democrat-aligned media startup, New Information. Craig Newmark, a Biden donor who founded Craigslist, funds a variety of journalism schools to the tune of millions of dollars a year.

More than a dozen philanthropies fund the Associated Press’s efforts to beef up its climate, election, and race reporting. Many of the AP’s donors also back liberal causes, such as the voting rights group of Democratic heavyweight Stacey Abrams, and Take Back the Court, which aims to expand the Supreme Court, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

Many of the organizations funding the AP are also Press Forward donors. That includes the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Outrider Foundation, and Hewlett Foundation. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation was a leading proponent of Obamacare. The Outrider Foundation embraces an apocalyptic view of climate change. The Hewlett Foundation pours money into hundreds of liberal advocacy groups, and is a major funder of Planned Parenthood.