Omidyar Network, the leading philanthropic investment firm established by the billionaire eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, announced at the Skoll World Forum 2017 a $100M commitment to fund investigative journalism in order to promote accuracy and truthfulness in media reporting. The funding, which is set to run over the next three years, aims to strengthen the work of independent media around the globe and increase the quality of news. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists(ICIJ), the group behind last year’s Panama Papers investigation, is scheduled to be one of the first recipients of this funding. ICIJ is set to receive a three-year grant to expand its investigative reporting.
Stephen King, partner and global lead for the Governance & Citizen Engagement group at Omidyar Network, commented on this initiative: “A free and independent media is key to providing trusted information and critical checks and balances on those in positions of power. We are increasing our support for this work to ensure it scales and accelerates to keep pace with the challenges society is facing. We are therefore delighted to provide the International Consortium of Investigative Journalism with a $4.5M core grant. This enables the organization to expand its investigations […].”
The fund seems to be in part a response to the apparent resurgence of authoritarian politics around the world with impact on open and inclusive societies and a push to rebalance the trust in media by adding weights behind facts, spreading better information and accountability and enabling channels for people to use their voices. General media coverage of recent events such as the UK’s debate on EU membership, the impeachment of Brazil’s president Rousseff, the US presidential election, and ongoing global matters, seem to put in question the public’s trust in some institutions, experts and media. According to the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, under 50% of the respondents within the 28 countries surveyed had trust in the mainstream institutions of business, government, media and NGOs to do what is right. An environment of “alternative facts” and post truth seems to have taken its toll. Therefore, the situation may demand more attention to be given to facts, truth, and transparency.
Omidyar Network has created a platform which aspires to offer everyone equal access to information and the tools to pursue their goals. By investing in people through opportunities, the group aims to enable them to create productive returns for themselves, their families, and the world at large. Over the last ten years, Omidyar Network has supported independent media, investigative journalism, and fact-checking organizations around the world. Investees include names such as Emmy-winning Insight TWI: The Word Investigates, Innovative Africa, which works to improve the quality and impact of journalism in Africa, and Chequeado, Latin America’s first fact-checking website.
Given the current state of global events, it seems imperative journalists remain the world’s independent eyes and ears. Funding from organizations such as the Omidyar Network may provide the tools needed by independent, fact-based news organizations to continue producing innovative, impartial, investigative projects with real and measurable impact on communities around the globe. This recent initiative builds up on the concept journalism needs to be well-sourced, supported by solid evidence, examined and tested, clear and balanced, and accuracy emerges as an essential element in informing the public and sustaining authentic debates. As curators of the information and news gathered, the journalists have a responsibility towards their audience to chase the truth and deliver facts and fact-based opinions while upholding common standards of journalism ethics such as professionalism, reliability and public accountability.
How may investigative reporting help catalyze a new golden age of journalism?