IPA Blog

Importance of Journalism & Storytelling Examined in Mutz Session

Wednesday, July 13, 2022


This blog was written by Hannah Giere of Community Health Network Foundation to provide an inside look into her Mutz Philanthropic Leadership Institute class.



For the sixth session of the 2022 Mutz Institute, the group examined philanthropy’s role in communication and in shaping the message that is shared with the wider community. The group met in Regions Tower in the offices of the Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation

Francesca Jaroz Brady, senior vice president at VOX Global, and Charlee Beasor, associate commissioner for marketing and communications at the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, started off the day’s events. They contextualized storytelling in their campaign for change in higher education. They gathered and disseminated information, learning from others about the obstacles or barriers to post-secondary enrollment and sharing through stories how to overcome them. Through strategic and thoughtful communication, they were able to use language that resonated with their audience and collected data showing their positive impact.

Following a short break, IPA’s Holly Davis moderated a panel of distinguished local journalists: Holly Hays, John Russell, and Lindsey Erdody. The panelists shared their perspectives and experiences reporting philanthropic news. They answered inquiries ranging from how to pitch a story to what makes a good philanthropic story and also addressed a question about what each believed the role of philanthropy is in supporting journalism. They also had a chance to share their favorite philanthropic stories. Each stressed the importance of building a trust-based relationship with philanthropy journalists.


"We tend to focus on the downsides of problems, but nearly all of them have an opportunity." - John Krull



The second panel of the day was moderated by John Krull, director of Franklin College’s Pulliam School of Journalism and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com. The panel included Ellen Quigley, vice president of programs at Richard M. Fairbanks Foundation and John Mutz, the institute’s namesake. Both spoke at length about how philanthropy can help journalism continue to thrive in an environment of rapid change and downsizing. They discussed whether financial support might skew new priorities and how philanthropy could help evolving business models for journalism. “We tend to focus on the downsides of problems, but nearly all of them have an opportunity,” Krull said.

The day’s final guest speaker was Nancy Bocskor, president of her own consulting firm and an adjunct professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management. Bocskor focused on how to create authentic stories and make a personal branding statement. Stories create one degree of separation between the storyteller and the audience, she said. They also help listeners retain information—65-70% of information is retained if it’s shared in a story while only 5-10% is remembered if information is presented as facts only.

The takeaway? Presenting data doesn’t equal good storytelling. Nonprofits and philanthropic organizations are more likely to be successful if they tell a good story.

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