American Journalism Project announces new grantees; Makes first philanthropic investment in public radio

The American Journalism Project (AJP) today announced four transformative new grants to news organizations serving Nevada, Detroit, Charlotte and Louisville. These multiyear investments will add critical business capacity to outstanding local news organizations to ensure long-term sustainability and growth.

The Nevada Independent and Outlier Media (Detroit), and two public radio organizations, Louisville Public Media and WFAE (Charlotte), will use these grants to significantly bolster operating capacity so they can expand the impact of their journalism to reach more communities. Each of these news organizations provides crucial original reporting for communities that would otherwise lack information for responsive decision-making.

The Nevada Independent: Founded in 2017 by veteran political journalist Jon Ralston, The Nevada Independent has quickly emerged as a high-impact statewide nonprofit news organization. The NVIndy, as it is known, covers every level of government, empowering the public to hold local and state officials to account. Its watchdog reporting on a Northern Nevada brothel owner and county commissioner’s plans concerning a special utility district led to changes in the governance of such districts. Based on the NVIndy’s data model, Nevada officials adjusted the way COVID-19 statistics were being reported, and NVIndy’s coverage of major bills, industry contributions, and sexual harassment allegations have resulted in state legislature changes. AJP’s investment in the NVIndy is to strengthen its operational capacity so that it can grow to fill the expanding void in local news across the state.

Outlier Media: Since its founding in 2016 by civil rights lawyer-turned-journalist Sarah Alvarez, Outlier Media has served more than 200,000 Detroit residents with critical information. Through text messages containing data culled from public records, Outlier Media has helped Detroiters save homes from tax foreclosure and avoid eviction, file for unemployment, and find COVID tests and vaccines. During March and April 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Detroit early and hard, Outlier reporters texted an average of 200 people each day. This ground-level exchange not only directly serves economically vulnerable residents, it also fuels journalism to hold landlords, municipal governments and elected officials accountable. Often produced in collaboration with local, statewide or national newsrooms, Outlier’s reporting has led to new city policies like a rental registration ordinance and increased oversight of the Detroit Land Bank Authority. Outlier’s product and model has already proved to be a game-changing approach to meeting the information needs of audiences that have long been overlooked. With AJP’s support, Outlier can significantly expand its product in Detroit and serve as a model for the field.

Sarabeth Berman, CEO of the American Journalism Project, said: “The Nevada Independent and Outlier Media are led by outstanding local journalists with a deep commitment to their communities. They are redefining what’s possible for the future of local news. We are excited to be a part of their growth trajectory and to also learn from them along the way.”

The American Journalism Project is making its first philanthropic investment in broadcast-focused public media, with two pilot grants to Louisville Public Media and WFAE (Charlotte, North Carolina). These public media grants are made in part through the support of the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, which gave a grant to the American Journalism Project designated for research and learning about public media and the role it can play in rebuilding local news.

“We are very pleased to partner with the American Journalism Project in supporting the growth of local news through public media. We believe public radio stations are well positioned to play a key role in this space,” said Michael Murray, president of Arthur Vining Davis Foundations. “With additional funding and strategic guidance from AJP advisers, entrepreneurial stations can become leading sources of local reporting for cities and regions across the country.”
The American Journalism Project conducted an extensive review of the field and identified these two public media organizations as producing original local journalism, having a dynamic multimedia strategy, demonstrating a commitment to meeting the information needs of diverse, traditionally underserved communities, executing innovative approaches to programming and revenue strategies, and having strong, ambitious leadership. These attributes position the pilot grants to accelerate impact and contribute to advanced insights about the role public media can play in rebuilding community trust in local news and filling critical information gaps.

Louisville Public Media: The parent company of NPR news station 89.3 WFPL, the Peabody Award-winning Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, and music stations 90.5 WUOL and 91.9 WFPK, Louisville Public Media reaches more than 300,000 people per week across its platforms. Louisville Public Media has increasingly filled the gaps left by newsroom cutbacks at the region’s daily newspaper. Since veteran journalist Stephen George became president and general manager in 2018, Louisville Public Media has increased its commitment to public service journalism through initiatives such as the Ohio Valley ReSource — a collaboration among seven public media outlets across three states dedicated to covering the Appalachian region. In the past year alone, WFPL expanded its weekly talk show and created a dedicated blog as the pandemic spread in Kentucky, using all its platforms to get crucial information to the public. The station has also delivered essential daily coverage of the protests for racial justice in Louisville following the killing of Breonna Taylor. Louisville Public Media is currently fundraising to nearly double the local reporting staff at WFPL. The American Journalism Project grant will support the growth of Louisville Public Media’s newsroom and its marketing efforts to promote expanded beats, as well as a campaign to increase major gifts and audience revenue.

WFAE: Charlotte’s independent public radio station WFAE reaches over 200,000 listeners each week across the Carolinas. Under the leadership of President and CEO Joe O’Connor and Executive Vice President and Chief Content Officer Ju-Don Marshall, WFAE has expanded its digital presence, growing its digital audience by 425% while developing original podcasts, producing collaborative reporting projects, and deepening community engagement.
The She Says podcast’s investigation into sexual assault changed local police policies and procedures and led to the release of funds to sexual assault nurse examiners. Collaborative reporting on housing, COVID-19 and local elections have helped to close coverage gaps of Black and Latino communities. The Queen City PodQuest workshop and Story Mosaic platform have elevated community voices, especially among people of color. The American Journalism Project grant will position WFAE to restructure its revenue team and develop emerging news products and community engagement while continuing to build audiences.

“We are encouraged by the role that Louisville Public Media and WFAE are playing as a source of vital, audience-centered civic news in their communities. Their work to date and their vision for the future demonstrate how crucial public media can be in solving the local news crisis,” said Berman.

“Louisville Public Media and WFAE exemplify public media stations’ commitment to local journalism. These innovative stations provide high-quality coverage of their communities through collaboration and lots of engaged journalism,” said Kathy Merritt, senior vice president of Journalism, Radio and Community Service Grant Services for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. “They demonstrate potential for nonprofit news to serve the information needs of the American people. We appreciate the support of the American Journalism Project for these two public media stations.”
Louisville Public Media, The Nevada Independent, Outlier and WFAE are doing extraordinary work that the American Journalism Project is honored to support.

Hear from leaders of these news organizations in this video: American Journalism Project April 2021 Grantees

New Funding Partners
The American Journalism Project will continue to add to its portfolio throughout the year and is also pleased to announce new funders who are helping to reimagine local news. AJP has received a donation from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund to support its movement-building work, and also welcomes News Corp’s corporate giving initiative and the Kaplen Brothers Fund to its community of supporters.

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 20 newsrooms around the country.