American Journalism Project and Google News Initiative announce partnership to develop incubation program to support news startups

NEW YORK — The American Journalism Project and the Google News Initiative (GNI) are partnering to develop an ambitious program that will accelerate the launch of new nonprofit local newsrooms at scale across the country. As part of the partnership, GNI will support the American Journalism Project’s design and growth of a comprehensive local news startup program that begins with intensive market research and information needs assessments and culminates with the incubation and launch of ambitious nonprofit startup efforts.


Enabling a healthy, independent, local news ecosystem is a top priority of our work at the Google News Initiative. This partnership with the American Journalism Project will accelerate that work as together, we support and grow digital native newsrooms across the country."

Ben Monnie, director of Global News Partnerships at Google

The American Journalism Project was founded to strengthen and invigorate local nonprofit news. In 2020, in response to increasing concern and interest from local communities, the American Journalism Project began to work with local philanthropies and civic leaders to conduct extensive market research and then leverage learnings to design and implement a region-specific recommendation for the growth of local news. Early examples of this initiative include a partnership with the Wichita Community Foundation, which culminated in the launch of The Wichita Beacon, and the recently announced Ohio Local News Initiative, which was the result of a partnership with a coalition of Northeast Ohio-based philanthropies led by The Cleveland Foundation. More about the program can be found here.

The American Journalism Project will be growing its program to serve more markets, with expanded capacity to provide in-depth landscape assessments and incubate ambitious nonprofit news startups. The design and growth of the program will leverage GNI’s expertise and resources, including the recently published GNI Startups Playbook, News Consumer Insights and its Local Experiments team, and leverage products and services available through Google News Initiative-funded partners Newspack and News Revenue Hub. Startups launched by the American Journalism Project will also be eligible to participate in GNI programs, including the GNI Startups Lab, and will contribute to GNI’s development of best practices for the broader industry.

This partnership builds upon a co-investment both organizations made in The Oaklandside in 2019 and will be informed by the American Journalism Project’s work to date in supporting startups — The BeaconCapital BMountain State Spotlight, and The Oaklandside.

“We are pleased to partner with Google News Initiative as we develop and execute an incubation program to support news startups through launch,” said Sarabeth Berman, CEO of the American Journalism Project. “Their investment will help us to establish and sustain new nonprofit news organizations for local communities across the country.”

Following the research phase, a program approach for a new nonprofit organization is designed in partnership with local stakeholders tailored to the particular information needs of the market found by the research. Incubation of these local news startups will include stewarding a broad coalition of community stakeholders and local philanthropies to seed the effort, hiring the leadership team, developing initial organizational assets and then providing targeted programming and support around program development, governance, legal & operations, financial planning, fundraising, communications, talent & hiring, and more. This program will be implemented by American Journalism Project’s strategy and startups team, led by Senior Vice President Michael Ouimette.

The recently announced Ohio Local News Initiative, slated for launch in 2022 with a Cleveland-based newsroom, will be one of the first startup news organizations to receive incubation support through this partnership with more to follow next year.

About the American Journalism Project
The American Journalism Project is a venture philanthropy dedicated to local news. We believe in civic journalism as a public good and are reimagining its future by building a model to finance and sustain the local news our democracy requires. We make grants to local nonprofit news organizations to build their revenue and business operations, partner with communities to launch new organizations, and mentor leaders as they grow and sustain their newsrooms. To learn more about the American Journalism Project, visit our website.

About Google News Initiative
The Google News Initiative (GNI) is Google’s effort to help journalism thrive in the digital age and signifies a major milestone in the company’s 15-year commitment to the news industry. The GNI brings together everything we do in collaboration with news publishers and the ecosystem — across products, partnerships, and programs — to help build a stronger future for news. The GNI will fuel these efforts with a $300m commitment focused on three objectives: elevate and strengthen quality journalism, evolve business models to drive sustainable growth and empower news organizations through technological innovation.