With New York City and Philadelphia news often overshadowing the concerns and challenges we face here in New Jersey, there is both a need and a hunger for constructive dialogue, access to quality information and public data, and community participation in local decision-making.

Dodge supports local journalism, government transparency initiatives, and creative community outreach efforts to educate and engage the public around issues of importance to New Jersey, as well as to uncover abuses of power by the institutions in which we’ve placed our trust. We believe that communities thrive when news and information is a collaborative endeavor that seeks to include and represent all voices in the community and facilitates meaningful opportunities for public participation in policy decisions that impact their lives.

As part of the implementation of Dodge’s new vision, we developed an equity theory of change for the Informed Communities program. The theory of change addresses research that suggests people and communities of color receive the least amount of local news coverage in New Jersey — and often this coverage perpetuates negative racial stereotypes. In addition, research shows media outlets by, for, and about people and communities of color receive significantly less institutional funding than other mainstream media outlets.

Studies over decades show these factors have negative real-world impacts on people, communities, and our democracy. When people of color do not know or understand what is happening in their communities, when they do not see their lives and important issues they care about reflected in media coverage in nuanced ways, and when they are unable to connect their daily lives with broader systems and patterns, then they risk disengaging and not taking actions to make social change, and we as a broader society lose the richness of their stories and the solutions to challenges facing our communities.  

Therefore, the Informed Communities theory of change seeks to build on the groundwork and relationships developed over the past decade and add a racial equity lens on our grantmaking so that all people and communities benefit from a local news ecosystem that reflects the state’s diversity and equitably serves people of color. 

Informed Communities Theory of Change

If we increase funding to media outlets by, for, and about people and communities of color and to equitable media collaborations including people-of-color outlets to practice engaged journalism and we explore opportunities to serve statewide news and information needs of people and communities of color,

Then media outlets by, for, and about people and communities of color would have more capacity and influence to serve their communities’ news and information needs, journalists of color would have more career opportunities, the New Jersey media ecosystem would be more reflective of and invested in people of color, and all people will benefit from having access to news and information informed by the diversity of our state. 

2020 Grantmaking 

This theory of change guides new grantmaking in 2020 and over the next three years while we continue to review and adapt our current guidelines and processes to meet our equity goals.

In 2020, Dodge is not accepting letters of inquiry or unsolicited proposals, although program staff may invite new proposals in alignment with new strategies. Current grantees may reapply for funding this year under existing guidelines below.

Informed Communities Guidelines:

Through local journalism and creative community building efforts, citizens are informed, engaged and empowered to make decisions and take action to improve their own lives, as well as to shape the future of their communities.

We strive to fulfill this vision for Informed Communities in New Jersey by funding organizations that:

  • Provide high quality, New Jersey-focused news across multiple platforms;
  • Seek ambitious, innovative, and collaborative reporting opportunities, with a priority on investigative reporting;
  • Actively engage people and communities of color with relevant news, information and community-building initiatives; and
  • Encourage meaningful, ongoing civic dialogue and community participation.