The American Journalism Project (AJP), a venture philanthropy organization committed to building a future for local news, announced grants to nonprofit news organizations that serve communities in Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin. American Journalism Project provides transformational multi-year grants and venture support for local news nonprofit organizations to expand their business and operations in order to achieve growth and sustainability. These philanthropic investments in El Paso Matters, Mountain State Spotlight, and a partnership between Wisconsin Watch and Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service bring the venture philanthropy’s portfolio to 22 organizations serving communities in 20 states and Puerto Rico.
“El Paso Matters, Mountain State Spotlight, Wisconsin Watch and Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service are part of a new generation of organizations that is leading us to reimagine local news in service of communities,” says Sarabeth Berman, CEO of American Journalism Project. “El Paso Matters is doing vital reporting on a region with national and international importance, but with a nuanced local lens for a local audience. The remarkable partnership between Wisconsin Watch and Neighborhood News Service is demonstrating how accountability reporting and community news work together to deliver crucial information to residents, and Mountain State Spotlight is making sure that West Virginians have the reporting they need to shape the future of their state.”
Founded in 2019 by journalist Bob Moore, El Paso Matters provides in-depth original reporting about El Paso and the Paso del Norte Region. The former editor of the El Paso Times, Moore has a deep commitment to providing the area with critical issues-based reporting, as well as countering common and misleading media narratives by telling a “more complete” story about the Border region. El Paso Matters has produced vital investigative and service reporting for its community. It quickly became the key local source of comprehensive Covid-19 reporting, and has created election guides and coverage with information not provided by other local media, while its education and border enforcement investigations have also provided essential reporting to meet the needs of the community. El Paso Matters was nominated for the Online News Association’s General Excellence Award within six months of its launch. AJP’s grant will allow El Paso Matters to significantly increase the capacity of its revenue and operations team in order to further expand its beat coverage and original civic reporting for the El Paso region.
Mountain State Spotlight was launched in 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the support of an incubation grant from the American Journalism Project. The Charleston, West Virginia newsroom was created to fill the growing void left by its rapidly shrinking local newspaper. Co-founded by former Charleston Gazette-Mail Executive Editor Greg Moore, MacArthur genius grant recipient Ken Ward, Jr., and Pulitzer Prize winner Eric Eyre, Mountain State Spotlight went from idea to launch in under six months. The newsroom has won a national journalism award for its reporting on hunger in West Virginia, and its reporting on the statewide distribution of the COVID19 vaccine was featured in the New York Times. Mountain State Spotlight has shown remarkable progress in leveraging incubation support to launch a newsroom that, within a year and during a pandemic, is providing a crucial information service to West Virginians and has already become one of the largest newsrooms in West Virginia. This new grant from the American Journalism Project will expand its revenue and business operations for long-term sustainable growth.
The American Journalism Project is also making a joint investment in Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service (NNS) and Wisconsin Watch to bolster their existing partnership and further catalyze the rebuilding and impact of the local news ecosystem in Milwaukee and across Wisconsin.
Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service is an award-winning, hyperlocal nonprofit news organization that covers Milwaukee’s African American and Latino communities. Focusing on 18 neighborhoods, NNS gives readers relevant information they wouldn’t get anywhere else about education, public safety, economic development, health and wellness, environment, recreation, employment, youth development and housing.
NNS is a professionally staffed news organization housed in the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University. Editor Ron Smith was previously managing editor for news at USA Today, following newsroom leadership roles at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, The Oregonian, the Los Angeles Times and Newsday.
Wisconsin Watch, the newsroom of the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, has become the central place for issues-based news reporting across the state: last year alone more than 200 news organizations throughout Wisconsin published or broadcast its stories. This is in addition to more than 200 news organizations across the country that ran stories reported by Wisconsin Watch. Co-founded in 2009 by Andy Hall and Dee J. Hall, the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism is one of the premier nonprofit news organizations focused on accountability journalism and impact.
In 2020, the two organizations partnered to enhance the impact their newsrooms could have. The hyperlocal focus of NNS and the statewide reach of Wisconsin Watch are a model for how nonprofit newsrooms can comprehensively serve the varied needs of communities throughout the state. An outgrowth of this partnership was the launch of News414, a direct-to-text information service for Milwaukee’s diverse communities. The service not only provides critical information to citizens, but connects residents directly to reporters so they can ask questions for which the newsroom can help provide answers. The American Journalism Project grant will grow a revenue and operations team to support the expansion of accountability journalism in Wisconsin and to grow community journalism statewide, starting with Milwaukee, where new revenue will be used to hire additional reporters dedicated to covering the city’s critical issues and further build News414 into a key service for local community news.
Along with these grants, a new partnership between Microsoft and the American Journalism Project will provide program funding along with technology, legal and business services to local news collaboratives in El Paso and Northeast Wisconsin, which are being coordinated by El Paso Matters and Wisconsin Watch, respectively. The partnership is part of Microsoft’s Journalism Initiative, a program launched in 2020 to address the challenges facing local journalism.
“Healthy democracies require healthy journalism,” said Mary Snapp, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at Microsoft. “We’re determined to help support newsrooms with digital tools, technology and funding. With this exciting partnership with the American Journalism Project, we aim to help ensure journalism’s vitality for years to come.
About the American Journalism Project
The American Journalism Project (AJP) is committed to a vision in which an independent, resilient, and ubiquitous civic press represents, informs, and engages every member of the diverse public it serves. Founded by pioneers in nonprofit journalism, AJP is a venture philanthropy organization that makes investments in mission-driven nonprofit local news organizations and dynamic entrepreneurs, provides strategic support, and is building a movement to reimagine the future of local news. The American Journalism Project currently supports 22 nonprofit news organizations in the United States and Puerto Rico.