American Journalism Project Selects Sarabeth Berman as First-Ever CEO
Berman directs expertise in movement building and nonprofit leadership to reignite the spark behind local news
WASHINGTON D.C. — Today, the American Journalism Project (AJP) announced the selection of its first CEO, Sarabeth Berman. Berman will report to the AJP Board of Directors and will replace co-founder John Thornton as AJP’s day-to-day leader.
Berman comes to AJP with a decade of leadership experience in thriving, innovative social-change organizations. Most recently, Berman served as Global Head of Public Affairs at Teach for All, a global network of 53 social enterprises tackling education challenges. In that role, she helped build national movements to expand opportunities for students and promote systemic change in education around the world.
Berman is inspired and ready to begin her new position. “Anybody who tells you that local journalism is doomed has not looked seriously at the problem or at the extraordinary creativity already underway,” she said. “The American Journalism Project is determined to help shift the trajectory from decay to growth. Most of all, that means reimagining how we finance and sustain these organizations. Our goal is a country in which every community has the information it needs to sustain democracy and hold local powers to account. I’m beyond thrilled to be a part of it.”
AJP is a venture philanthropy organization founded in 2019 with an ambitious mission to grow sustainable nonprofit, nonpartisan local newsrooms that are governed by, sustained by, and look like the public they serve. AJP was founded on two core beliefs: First, local news is a crucial public good and fundamental democratic institution which holds the powerful accountable, combats disinformation, and deepens civic participation; and second, as communities across the U.S. lose their newspapers to failing revenue models, there is an urgent need for a new approach to local news.
In response, AJP is mobilizing a movement to gather and deploy philanthropic capital to support and sustain high-quality, nonpartisan and nonprofit local news organizations. Part of a growing network of organizations dedicated to building the field of nonprofit news, AJP employs a first-of-its-kind venture philanthropy model designed to help ambitious, digital-forward local news organizations achieve sustainable growth. With founding support from Knight Foundation, Arnold Ventures, Emerson Collective, Craig Newmark Philanthropic Fund, Democracy Fund, the Facebook Journalism Project, Christopher Buck and Dr. Hara Schwartz, and Erin and John Thornton, AJP announced its first $8.5 million in grants to 11 civic news organizations in December 2019.
“Sarabeth comes to AJP at a critical inflection point in the history of local news. The current health crisis reinforces the urgent need for a new, more effective and more sustainable model that guarantees everyone the basic quantum of information they need to stay healthy and safe,” said John Thornton, co-founder of AJP and founder of The Texas Tribune. “Creating this new model requires a leader who not only respects journalism and the power of news, but understands the importance of challenging the status quo. And that’s why we’re so excited to welcome Sarabeth Berman as our new CEO.”
“Sarabeth helped build Teach For All and put it on its trajectory, and I can’t imagine a better person to lead the American Journalism Project,” said Wendy Kopp, CEO and co-founder of Teach For All. “Her leadership, personal energy and sense of possibility — and her passion for restoring local journalism as a foundation for strengthening our democracy — give me such confidence in the future of AJP’s ambitious endeavor.”
AJP is excited to have Berman at the organization’s helm.
“We’re beyond lucky to welcome Sarabeth to our team,” said Elizabeth Green, co-founder of AJP and co-founder and CEO of Chalkbeat. “Among the many skills Sarabeth brings with her, we see two as most critical to building the next generation of digital-forward, nonprofit news organizations: her unparalleled ability to support leaders in the nonprofit field, and her deep understanding of movement building, including how to attract top talent and dollars to achieve systemic change.”
Said Jennifer Preston, vice president for journalism, Knight Foundation:
“In Sarabeth Berman, AJP has chosen a leader who knows how to build and scale organizations that serve communities. Nonprofit news organizations will benefit from her track record for supporting, networking and elevating innovative leaders working on the frontlines of civic life.”
Said Irving Washington, Executive Director/CEO of the Online News Association and AJP board member:
“In her last role, Sarabeth proved that with world-class support, extraordinary leaders can change the world, and do so sustainably — even in very difficult fundraising environments. To achieve AJP’s ambitious vision of recruiting unprecedented new resources to the public good of local news, we can’t imagine a better leader than Sarabeth.”
Said Peter Lattman, managing director, media, Emerson Collective and AJP board member:
“I applaud the selection of Sarabeth Berman as the first chief executive of the American Journalism Project. Local journalism is collapsing and in dire need of thoughtful and dynamic leaders like Sarabeth. Sarabeth’s passion for the news business — and world-class experience in the nonprofit sector — make her the perfect choice to be AJP’s first CEO.”
Berman serves on the board of the Mark Morris Dance Group and the Washington Yu Ying Public Charter School. She is a graduate of Barnard College and lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband, a journalist, and two children. She begins in her new role on May 1.