May 9-11, 2022 • Chicago, Illinois

AJPalooza 2022

A 3-day event bringing together American Journalism Project grantees for conversations, collaboration and camaraderie.

AJPalooza program schedule

AJPalooza runs Monday, May 9 – Wednesday, May 11 at the Chicago Athletic Association. The event starts with an evening of light programming and dinner on Monday. Tuesday, we spend the morning and early afternoon in small group discussions at the hotel, before venturing out for offsite programming and dinner. Wednesday, we spend the morning continuing our conversations at the hotel, culminating with lunch onsite. Programming ends Wednesday at 1 pm CT.


Monday, May 9: Celebrating together

AJPalooza runs from 4 pm – 8 pm on Monday, with programming from 4 – 6 pm CT and dinner from 6-8 pm CT.

3:00 pm — Hotel check-in

4-4:45 pm — Welcome and warm-up

  • Sarabeth Berman, CEO of American Journalism Project, will welcome and share updates from the portfolio, followed by a quick introduction exercise facilitated by American Journalism Project’s Christa Scharfenberg and consultant Jen Mizgata

4:45pm — Celebrating “Graduating” grantees Cityside and Underscore

  • With their grants concluded, Lance Knobel, CEO of Cityside, and Jackleen de La Harpe, Executive Director of Underscore, share lessons from their work with American Journalism Projects’s Anna Nirmala and Michael Ouimette

5:15pm — Share out: Your wins this year

  • Group Discussion: One person from each organization should be ready to give a 1 minute update on your successes this year!

6-8pm — Dinner on the rooftop

  • Dinner with a view at Cindy’s Restaurant, located within the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel


Tuesday, May 10: Connecting and collaborating

Programming onsite runs from 8:30 am – 1 pm CT, including breakfast and lunch. At 1 pm CT, we’ll head offsite and will return back to the hotel by late afternoon. Dinner will be at a restaurant nearby.

8:30-9:30 am — Breakfast with Success Partners

  • Small Groups: Catch up with your Success Partner and with your peers that share a coach

9:30-10 am — Creative tensions

  • A quick warmup activity to help you get to know more about who else is in the room

10-10:45 am — Small group discussions

  • Based on your survey responses, you’ll meet with colleagues who are facing similar challenges to share approaches and solutions

10:45 am — Break

11-12 pm — Taking your revenue and fundraising to the next level

  • Lightning talks with plenty of time for Q&A to address your questions, facilitated by American Journalism Project’s Jason Alcorn
    • Membership programs: Shamus Toomey (Block Club Chicago)
    • Setting your revenue team up for multi-local fundraising: Amy Rosenblum (Chalkbeat), and Chavon Carroll (The Marshall Project) 
    • Using data to build new revenue streams: Jim Lenhoff (VT Digger) 
    • Bringing new funders to journalism: Michael Ouimette (American Journalism Project)
    • Journey from journalist to fundraiser: Mukhtar Ibrahim (Sahan Journal)

12- 12:45 pm — Lunch and group strategy sessions on revenue

  • Continuing from the previous session, you’ll move the discussion into small groups, focused on the lightning talk topic you’re most interested in

12:45 pm — Field trip! Double decker bus tour of Chicago

  • Local urban historian Dilla will lead us on a bus tour of Chicago, weaving in reporting from our local grantees’ coverage of the area. Note: Dress warmly for time spent on the open top level. We’ll get out and walk around during this journey.

4 pm — Expected arrival back to hotel

4-6 pm — Break

  • Do whatever you like! This can be a good time to make plans to chat with your peers or Success Partner, or head back to your room to rest and touch base with your colleagues back home

6 pm — Dinner at Acanto

  • Join us at Acanto for some Italian cuisine! Located next to the hotel, at 18 South Michigan Avenue


Wednesday, May 11: Taking it forward

8:30 am-1 pm CT programmed, including lunch

8:30 am — Breakfast and sub-cohorts kickoff

  • This breakfast session will give you a chance to meet with others who want to continue having small group discussions around the topics you’ll prioritize on site, such as being a startup, management challenges, working on specific revenue streams, and more

9:30-10:30 am — Tactics for managing rapid growth

  • A discussion on scaling, mergers and acquisitions, and other strategies for adapting and managing growth with Candice Fortman (Outlier), Harry Backlund (City Bureau) and Akoto Ofori-Atta (Capital B), facilitated by Loretta Chao (American  Journalism Project). 

10:30-11:30 am — Responding to changing staff needs

  • A lightning talk from American Journalism Project’s Anna Nirmala about challenges we’ve heard from leaders when it comes to hiring, managing and retaining staff, followed by small group discussions 

11:30-12 pm — Taking it forward

  • Share your insights from our time together and give input on future small group discussions you’d like to participate in post-AJPalooza

12-1 pm — Lunch and farewell



We’re taking high-level notes during this event! If a resource comes up during a conversation, feel free to drop in directly in our notes doc, in the AJP Slack, or email to follow up with you afterwards.


Communicate with your fellow attendees via the #ajpalooza channel on the AJP Grantee Slack.

Travel and lodging

Hotel: We are gathering in the White City Ballroom on the 8th floor of the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel, located at 12 S. Michigan Avenue Chicago, IL 60603.

Directions from O’Hare: Hop on the Blue Line train heading toward Forest Park and hop off at the Washington stop in the Chicago Loop. Back on street level, head east on Washington three blocks toward Millennium Park. You’ll pass under the “L” and then make a right on Michigan Avenue across from the park where you’ll see the beautiful steel and glass awning above the hotel entrance just past Madison Avenue. 

Directions from Midway: Take the Orange Line train towards the Loop and get off at the Washington/Wabash stop. You will proceed one block east on Madison towards Michigan Avenue. The hotel’s Madison entrance is on 71 E. Madison or turn the corner and enter our Michigan Ave doors at 12 S. Michigan. 


Your grants come pre-loaded with funds to cover this gathering. Please use funds from your Grantee Expenses budget to cover your flight, ground travel and hotel expenses. AJP will cover all on-site food and event-related costs directly.


Business casual, with emphasis on the casual! Jeans are fine, we’d like you to be comfortable and happy during this event. Keep in mind that we will take a field trip on the afternoon of the 10th, and you’ll likely want to dress warmly.

COVID-19 safety

We’re prioritizing keeping everyone healthy while we’re together. With the help of some professional guidance, we’ve determined the following requirements for attendance: 

  • Two vaccinations and a booster shot
    • If you are lacking a booster shot, you may attend if you have received an inoculation within the last 6 months in the form of: your second vaccination dose or a COVID-19 infection.
  • PCR test taken 3 days in advance of the event. If PCR tests are challenging to access in your area, email and we will send you a rapid test to be taken within 24 hours before you arrive. 
  • Masking is strongly encouraged while indoors.

We will have masks and a limited number of rapid tests available on site. We’ll keep windows open in the ballroom to promote air circulation. The weather is forecasted to be in the balmy low-70s, but feel free to keep a jacket with you just in case.

Why Chicago?

Each year, we will host AJPalooza in a city where our grantees are part of the local news ecosystem. This year, we’re thrilled to be gathering in a place where City Bureau, Block Club Chicago, and Chalkbeat have had tremendous impact, and we look forward to learning more about their work in their communities. Feel free to let us know if you’re interested in bringing AJPalooza to your city in future years.

Check out this list of cool spots to explore Chicago, both near and far from the hotel, generously populated by our local attendees!


Email Laura Bertocci, American Journalism Project’s Manager of Community Support