Washington, D.C. — The American Journalism Project announced five new grants to nonprofit news organizations that aim to provide specialized local reporting for audiences around the country. This marks the first time they are providing funding to help national organizations build or expand local reporting networks, and brings the American Journalism Project’s portfolio of grantees to 26 organizations and total investments made to nearly $25 million. This diverse portfolio of philanthropic investments represents promising approaches to financing and sustaining the local news our democracy requires.
Each recipient of these new grants — Capital B, Chalkbeat, ICT (formerly Indian Country Today), The Marshall Project, and Open Campus — combines subject-matter expertise with local knowledge, brings new national funding to local news, and has a leadership team that can scale their vision across the country. American Journalism Project’s investments in Capital B, Chalkbeat, The Marshall Project, and Open Campus will give these organizations new funding and strategic support to significantly grow their revenue and impact and expand their organizations into new local communities, while a six-month planning grant to ICT will support the creation of a strategic plan for the expansion of its local news operations.
To realize our vision of a country where every community has the information it needs will take investing in and testing promising new models, including these ambitious multilocal strategies. We are inspired by their leadership and approaches to bringing vital new resources into local news.”
Sarabeth Berman, CEO of American Journalism Project
Capital B — led by Lauren Williams, former senior vice president and editor-in-chief at Vox, and Akoto Ofori-Atta, former managing editor at The Trace — will produce accountability and service journalism to serve Black communities, especially in areas where they are underserved by local newsrooms. Its newsrooms will report on criminal justice, education, health, politics, housing, and more for audiences across the country.
Shared national editorial and business infrastructure will support Capital B’s network of local newsrooms. A portion of the organization’s nationally-raised funding will be allocated to local newsrooms that are in need of startup capital to catalyze their funding, or which may need national support in perpetuity to sustain news gathering operations. The model will enable Capital B to leverage national interest and infrastructure in racial justice to fund reporting for communities around the country, even if the revenue opportunities in those communities are limited.
The American Journalism Project made an incubation grant to Capital B in 2020 to support the founders’ efforts to develop, plan, and fundraise for their new venture. This second, three-year investment will help fund business hires — including a development team and a sales director.
Chalkbeat, whose leadership includes co-founder and CEO Elizabeth Green, and Editor-in-Chief Nicole Avery Nichols, is a local news organization that covers public education across the country. Its work is rooted in local communities, with close to 50 journalists serving eight locales. Chalkbeat recently launched a campaign to more than double the number of cities in which it operates and to launch multiple new verticals beyond its original focus on education. With an investment from the American Journalism Project and a number of other funders, the organization aims to add 10 new Chalkbeat sites, expand Votebeat (covering election administration and voting access) to eight states, and launch Healthbeat (covering public health) in partnership with Kaiser Family Foundation’s Kaiser Health News. To manage this growth and expansion, a new parent organization will be created to guide and support the verticals, achieve economies of scale, and develop a launching pad for future brands.
Funding from the American Journalism Project will be used to hire members of the core business staff who will be essential to realizing Chalkbeat’s growth plan, including revenue, development and audience growth roles.
Elizabeth Green also co-founded the American Journalism Project and served as co-chair of the Board of Directors until March 2021. She was not involved in the grant decisions announced today.
The Marshall Project’s mission is to correct the historical failure of traditional media to effectively and fairly report on criminal justice issues. The organization, founded in 2014 by award-winning reporter Neil Barsky, and currently led by its President Carroll Bogert and Editor-in-Chief Susan Chira, recognizes that most criminal justice infrastructure in this country is local and that injustice in the system has a chance to be corrected only if those agencies and institutions are held accountable. The American Journalism Project will support the establishment of The Marshall Project’s first three local news teams in cities where there are significant criminal justice issues, declining media institutions, great journalistic talent and local philanthropy and donors who are eager to support this work.
As The Marshall Project expands its local news infrastructure, it will employ a networked approach to its reporting. This national to local strategy will enable The Marshall Project to serve local audiences while also telling broader national stories that benefit from deep insight into how those stories are playing out in communities around the country. The new local news operations will serve local audiences, including those directly impacted by the criminal justice system who have often been neglected or mischaracterized by the media. The American Journalism Project investment will support a chief strategy officer to lead the vision for and execution of the local expansion, along with increased financial management capacity and fundraising support in the local markets.
Open Campus, founded in 2019 by Scott Smallwood and Sara Hebel, who serve as editor-in-chief and executive editor respectively, is catalyzing a new way of covering higher education across the country by embedding reporters in local newsrooms, supported by a team of national editors and subject-matter experts. Through a higher-education lens, reporters in the Open Campus Local Network cover a range of critically important issues, such as social mobility, racial equity, the changing workforce, and generational divides in economic opportunity.
Open Campus is already working with several local newsrooms that have received support from the American Journalism Project. This grant will allow Open Campus to hire revenue and recruiting staff to work with those partner newsrooms to build local support for higher education reporting and to lead recruiting, training, and career development for employees and reporters in the Open Campus Local Network. This grant aims to put Open Campus on a path of growth that taps into the $50 billion in annual giving to higher education, much of which is socially-motivated and aligned with the mission and purpose of the organization.
ICT, the recipient of a six-month planning grant — the first of its kind for the American Journalism Project — has a 40-year history as a leading news organization covering Indigenous people and issues. The organization, relaunched as a nonprofit in 2018, delivers news through a digital news site and a weekday broadcast on public television stations. This planning grant will support strategic planning for expansion into new local markets, building on its current efforts in Alaska and Washington, D.C. The goal is to create a plan that can be used to build philanthropic support for a one-of-a-kind local and regional news ecosystem for reporting on Indigenous populations and issues.
For more information on the American Journalism Project’s portfolio of grantees or to apply for funding, please visit www.theajp.org.
The Beacon | Capital B | Centro de Periodismo Investigativo | Chalkbeat | City Bureau | Cityside | The Connecticut Mirror | Documented | El Paso Matters | ICT | inewsource |Louisville Public Media | Mississippi Today | MLK50: Justice Through Journalism | Montana Free Press | Mountain State Spotlight | The Marshall Project | The Nevada Independent | NOISE | Open Campus | Outlier Media | Underscore | VTDigger | WFAE | Wisconsin Watch and Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service | Wyofile
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.