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The legacy of H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest, 1930-2018, continues with a $20-million fund for local journalism.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Lenfest Institute for Journalism jointly announced on Sunday night a $20-million fund for a new national initiative to strengthen local journalism for the digital age.

Based in Philadelphia, both companies hope to foster innovation in journalism, community engagement and technology, particularly in  metropolitan areas, where news organizations face profound challenges.

“An informed citizenry is essential for a well-functioning democracy. Local news organizations ensure the people can determine their best interests. The Knight brothers believed that and so did Gerry Lenfest. We are thrilled to fund this collaboration, true to their fundamental beliefs,” said Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation president.

The new fund is designed so that individuals, corporations and other foundations can contribute and participate. The project will support new ways for local news organizations to build trust with their audiences and to increase revenue to achieve long-term business sustainability. The project has three pillars:

  1. Intensive change-management training for news leaders who are committed to meeting the technology, business, and audience realities of the future. This work builds on the Knight-Lenfest Newsroom Initiative with Temple University, the American Press Institute, Poynter Institute and other partners to help news organizations accelerate their shift to digital delivery.
  2. A technology resource hub that will provide tools, hands-on support and expertise in areas such as data journalism, news analytics, audience engagement, revenue models, and product development.
  3. Continued focus on the news ecosystem in the Philadelphia region, where the Lenfest Institute works with dozens of news organizations and several universities. New grant programs will also focus on serving the information needs of Philadelphia’s diverse communities and multicultural media.

“This initiative focuses resources on the people and projects driving transformational change in Philadelphia and around the country,” said Jim Friedlich, executive director of the Lenfest Institute. “By strengthening local news, with a focus on high-impact journalism, civic engagement, digital transformation, and the needs of diverse audiences, we can build a sustainable future for local journalism, one community at a time.”

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