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WASHINGTON — On Monday, the MacArthur Foundation announced $48 million in grants as part of the Press Forward initiative, a philanthropy-led effort to strengthen local communities and democracy by supporting local news and civic information.

Press Forward launched in September when 22 philanthropic institutions unveiled a coordinated plan to invest at least $500 million over the next five years in local journalism and civic media. As one of 17 initial grantees, Free Press will receive a $1-million grant in this first round to help the organization support the creation of local and state policies that prioritize the information needs of underserved communities.

Free Press Co-CEO Craig Aaron said:

“Free Press is grateful for the recognition and generous support from the MacArthur Foundation. We have a historic opportunity to reimagine and revitalize local news and information — and it comes at a crucial moment when not just the future of journalism but the foundations of democracy are in danger. Right now about two local newspapers across the United States shut down every single week, leaving communities in the dark about vital public affairs.

“This is a time to break away from a backward-looking approach on what local news used to be and instead focus on practices and policies that center community needs. We’re encouraged to see this major investment in so many of our allies, all of them leaders and innovators in the civic-media field, who we are excited to work with to reshape the future of local journalism.

“The creation of programs like the New Jersey Civic Information Consortium and the California Local News Fellowship show the crucial role policymakers can play in supporting community-information needs, but there is much more they can do and in many more places. The loss of newsroom jobs and shuttering of media outlets is not just a local-news crisis, it’s a crisis of civic health. Combined with increased lawmaker attention on local-news policy, the decisions made in the next few years could reshape our media system for generations. The Press Forward investment represents a bright spot of hope to create a media system that actually serves the public interest.”

Background: In February, a group of local-news experts and practitioners published The Roadmap for Local News: An Emergent Approach to Meeting Civic Information Needs. The Roadmap, which sets forth a visionary and actionable plan to ensure that every U.S. community has access to necessary civic news and information, helped establish the agenda for Press Forward. Free Press co-authored The Roadmap alongside Chalkbeat and City Bureau.

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