A project of Democracy Fund

North Carolina Local News Lab Fund


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The North Carolina Local News Lab Fund works to ensure that all North Carolinians have access to the local news and information they need to make their communities thrive.


The Fund is run by a group of local and national funders who believe in the power of local journalism, local stories, and local people to strengthen our democracy. It was established at the North Carolina Community Foundation in 2017 by Democracy Fund, a bipartisan foundation that works to ensure that the American people come first in our democracy.

The Fund supports people and organizations working to build a healthier local news and information ecosystem for all North Carolinians. The central goal of The North Carolina Local News Lab Fund is to provide more relevant and useful news and information for North Carolina communities. To achieve that goal the fund invests in projects that foster more audience-centered, diverse, trusted, engaged, collaborative, and sustainable local news and information for state. The Fund recognizes that North Carolinians get their news and information from a wide array of sources and it will invest in bold and creative ideas both inside traditional journalism and well beyond it.

If successful, North Carolinians will have greater access to the news and information they need to participate fully in their communities and our democracy.

We are still welcoming new partners into the fund. Contact us if you’d like to contribute to support a bright future for local news in North Carolina. We welcome questions and comments at localnewslab@democracyfund.org.


The Fund is locally led by a cohort of stakeholders who embrace values of learning, diversity, equity, inclusion, innovation, and transparency. The fund recognizes that editorial independence is essential to the integrity of this work, and will never seek to interfere with what grantees publish.

Focus Areas

The strategic focus of the fund is on supporting local news and information as a vital part of just communities and a healthy democracy. The fund’s goal is systems-level change. It focuses on network building, capacity building, innovation, experiments and long-term change over short-term solutions. It will focus on creating a stronger infrastructure for independent media and communications efforts that can serve numerous communities or organizations. As such, the fund is content agnostic. It will not fund specific reporting projects, beats, or topic areas, unless they build capacity and infrastructure for the local news and information ecosystem.

The fund is not focused on saving local news as it has been, but pushing forward changes that will both improve how the news and information landscape serves the public and makes that landscape more resilient over the long term.

The fund launched in 2018 with a focus on three core focus areas:

  • Innovation: The fund is not interested in innovation for innovation’s sake, or chasing new shiny trends, but it is keenly interested in people who are testing bold ideas and taking risks that can help serve community information needs better and more sustainably. This may mean supporting new experiments or helping scale innovations that are working. The fund understands that sometimes innovations fail, and our key concern is that people have space to take those risks, learn from them, and share what they learn with people and organizations across North Carolina.
  • Sustainability: A healthy news ecosystem must feature a diversity of business models and revenue strategies to be sustainable. It also must support the sustainability of the people who help produce news and information. The fund will support revenue experiments, sustainability efforts for individuals, and talent engine and pipeline initiatives.
  • Access: The fund is concerned with ensuring all North Carolinians have access to the trustworthy, quality news and information that they need to help their communities thrive. There are many ways to tackle these challenges, but initially the fund is interested in supporting efforts in two areas:
    • Network Building: We live in an era of fractured attention and dwindling resources for local news. Collaborations (between newsrooms, nonprofits and the public) are increasingly important to maximize the impact and reach of local news and information. We believe that in a healthy news ecosystem the whole adds up to more than the sum of its parts. The fund will support efforts to boost collaboration, build and strengthen networks, and develop shared services that can increase the sustainability of local news and expand people’s access to it.
    • Engaged Journalism: A healthy news ecosystem responds to people’s priorities and needs, engaging communities more deeply in the process and product of local news, ensuring that communities have the access to the information that they need. Engaged journalism practices are helping put diverse community voices and viewpoints at the center of news and are pioneering creative new ways of putting journalism and information to work in people’s daily lives. In addition, the fund sees community engagement as core to the sustainability of local news. The fund will support engaged journalism efforts in newsrooms and community organizations that help put people at the center of news and information and put news and information in the hands of more people.

Advisory Board:

The NCLNL advisory board reviews grant applications and advises the fund’s commitments. The board includes funders that have contributed money (Democracy Fund and Prentice Foundation), as well as expertise. 

Brett Chambers, North Carolina Central University, Elena Conley, Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation, Damon Circosta, A.J. Fletcher Foundation, Teresa Gorman, Democracy Fund, Bobbi Hapgood, Prentice Foundation, Ivan Kohar Parra, NC Congress of Latino Organizations, Sorien Schmidt, Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, Josh Stearns, Democracy Fund

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