American Journalism Project will work collaboratively to catalyze a new generation of civic news organizations
Houston — Arnold Ventures, the nation’s eighth-largest philanthropy, has announced its financial support for the American Journalism Project (AJP), a new initiative designed to reinvigorate mission-driven local news. Founded by Elizabeth Green and John Thornton (founders of Chalkbeat and The Texas Tribune, respectively), the American Journalism Project is the first venture philanthropy organization dedicated to strengthening an ecosystem of civic news organizations that believe local journalism a public good.
“Recognizing the value of a strong and independent press is a trait that goes back to the earliest days of our country,” says Jeff Cohen, executive vice president of communications at Arnold Ventures. “Media outlets help us hold our elected officials to account, share ideas and opinions with one another, and they collectively enhance our overall level of understanding of people, backgrounds, and cultures.”
The organization will support existing and emerging news organizations with grants and hands-on support to ensure their long-term sustainability through diverse revenue generation and modern technology operations. With these investments, the American Journalism Project will help transition these organizations from primarily grant-funded newsrooms into integrated nonprofit media organizations and catalyze a step-function increase in journalism philanthropy.
The organization recently announced its official launch with $42 million in lead funding commitments, a Board of Directors, and its first three hires. Arnold Ventures is joining the Knight Foundation, Emerson Collective, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, the Facebook Journalism Project, and philanthropist Christopher Buck as “lead supporters” of AJP.
“Local news coverage on topics of civic interest is a public good: vital to informed decision-making in a democracy, but no longer supported by the private market,” said Elizabeth Green, CEO and editor-in-chief of Chalkbeat and Board Chair of the American Journalism Project. “Plenty of journalists are ready to take on this challenge by developing creative new business models in the public interest. What’s been missing is the philanthropic capital to truly support them.”
Through the American Journalism Project, major funders are coming together to help build the philanthropic foundation for local news. Community and place-based foundations, major individual donors, and institutional funders will work collectively to scale best practices from across the news and nonprofit landscapes, institutionalize support for civic news organization leadership and ensure civic news organizations of all sizes and stages of development are supported in service to the public interest.
“News at the local level – the shortest distance between the news and the people – is where there is the most opportunity to rebuild the trust that has gone missing from our community dialogue. It’s where the American Journalism Project is focusing its efforts to restore local news availability, promote an expectation of reliability, and experiment both with uses of evolving technology and a range of revenue streams new to digital journalism,” said Alberto Ibargüen, Knight Foundation President.
Individuals and foundations interested in discussing a philanthropic contribution to the American Journalism Project are invited to contact Jason Alcorn at firstname.lastname@example.org or John Thornton at email@example.com. The American Journalism Project is a 501(c)3 charity and contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowable by law.