Photo: Aspirations Journalism

We The People: Democracy, Journalism, Philanthropy

Posted on September 21, 2020 by Hannah Saeger Karnei, Inaugural TPF Fellow
If you pick up a copy of the Washington Post, or as is more likely these days, visit their website, you'll see a simple statement under the paper name. "Democracy Dies in Darkness." Perhaps inspired by Thomas Jefferson's fervent promotion of free press during the Continental Congress, the message is simple. Without a free exchange of information, the power of a democratic people is undercut.

In my lifetime, the existence of newspapers, the identity of the U.S. pluralist society, and philanthropy's role in civil society have all been rearranged dramatically.

Philanthropy in the American vein is simply impossible in an undemocratic society. While generosity is as old as time, the system, be it effective or ineffective, that undergirds so much of the health, education, social services, and arts in the U.S. rely on a pluralist society ripe with freedom of speech and a free press to go along with it.

At The Patterson Foundation, we recognize that in order to strengthen the individuals, organizations, and communities we serve, we must also support community reporting.

Through the Aspirations Journalism initiative, TPF helps facilitate the critical civic service that is reliable and credible community news. While some of the funding undergirds reporter salaries at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, the purpose of the partnership is not "buying a reporter" but ensuring the sustainability of what we view as an essential service to our community.

Without the Aspirations Journalism initiative, the level of community engagement and education around Census 2020 would be improbable. TPF has learned through speaking with neighbors of all ages, occupations, and health-risk levels throughout the COVID-19 experience, that digital access is a critical component of social inclusion. These are just two brief examples of how TPF and HT work together to identify themes in our community, identify leaders for guest columns, and prioritize the sharing of stories that emphasize the importance of individuals, businesses, and nonprofits across our region. To help everyone in our community have access to the information they need to make informed decisions — a key tenant to democracy.

TPF's commitment to strengthening individuals, organizations, and communities means that we look for ways to bring value beyond the usual philanthropic role, and facilitating quality community reporting is essential to supporting informed, engaged, and interconnected citizens. Democracy dies in darkness, as does journalism, as does philanthropy. Democracy, journalism, and philanthropy are interdependent, and at the core of the cross-section is we the people.

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