At the center of this storm is the economic crisis faced by newspapers, which have lost roughly half their revenue since the Great Recession. There is no American industry of such combined size and civic importance that has endured such an economically devastating decade.
With support from Knight Foundation, Emerson Collective, Arnold Ventures, Craig Newmark Philanthropies and the Facebook Journalism Project, the American Journalism Project is a new effort to reinvigorate local news through the power of venture philanthropy. It was co-founded by local news entrepreneurs — Elizabeth Green (Chalkbeat) and John Thornton (Texas Tribune) — to capitalize on the lessons they have learned and convictions they have developed over the past decade.
In other social sectors, philanthropists have used venture philanthropy to create new ecosystems of strong, sustainable, and scaled organizations that fill gaps left by the market. The American Journalism Project is the first venture philanthropy firm with a mission of building an ecosystem of “social enterprises” for news.
The American Journalism Project is the first venture philanthropy organization dedicated to local news. We will make direct grants to an ecosystem of news organizations that believe access to civic information is a public service in and of itself.
The AJP raises support to create the Vanguard Local News Fund I, which we will use to make course-altering grants to a set of enterprising local news organizations. The AJP supporters will be at the forefront of philanthropic leadership by adopting a national perspective on a local problem.
The AJP will add transformational value to our member organizations by bringing expertise from commercial media, established nonprofits, and venture-backed startups. Ours will be a data-driven culture, accelerating the adoption of best practices from across the news and nonprofit landscapes.
Our long-term goal is to catalyze an incremental $1 billion in annual financial support for independent local news. The organizations AJP supports will pioneer this new economic model: sophisticated commercial media strategy and tactics supported by a step-function increase in journalism philanthropy.
This summer, we will invite our first proposals from civic news organizations for investment and intensive support. In the meantime, we invite organizations to review our funding criteria and determine their readiness for support.
Co-founder, CEO, and editor-in-chief of Chalkbeat, the nonprofit news organization dedicated to telling the story of education in America, one community at a time. Founded in 2014, Chalkbeat is now one of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing nonprofit news organizations, with reporters in seven locations. Elizabeth is also the author of Building a Better Teacher, the New York Times Book Review notable book of 2014 and bestseller.
Venture capitalist at Austin Ventures since 1990, where he has co-led the technology practice for more than two decades. He also co-founded venture capital firm Elsewhere Partners in 2017. In 2008, John founded the Texas Tribune, the only member-supported, digital-first, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government, and statewide issues.