The American Journalism Project welcomes Jelani Cobb to its board of directors

Cobb will bring notable experience in journalism and education and a strong vision for local nonprofit news to AJP’s board.

WASHINGTON — July 26, 2023 —  The American Journalism Project (AJP) today announced the appointment of Jelani Cobb, Dean and Henry R. Luce Professor of Journalism at Columbia Journalism School, to its board of directors. On AJP’s board, Dean Cobb will share his expertise as an award-winning journalist, accomplished academic, and advocate for a thriving local press.

Dean Cobb’s leadership at Columbia Journalism School has helped the institution pioneer the integration of nonprofit journalism into its curriculum and advance the nonprofit news sector, most notably through its recently-launched loan repayment assistance program for recent graduates who take positions in nonprofit news. 

“Local news is the cornerstone of our democracy; it plays an essential role in ensuring we have healthy, thriving and engaged communities, and we must advance it for the well-being of our nation,” Dean Cobb said. “The American Journalism Project is on the front line of rebuilding local news, and I’m excited and honored to  play a role in its work.”

Dean Cobb has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 2012, where he has made significant contributions to the dialogue on race in America, and is also a political analyst for MSNBC. He has served as editor and co-editor of several volumes including, The Matter of Black Lives, a collection of The New Yorker’s writings on race, and The Essential Kerner Commission Report. He completed a doctorate in American History from Rutgers University and is a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Dean Cobb’s invaluable knowledge will help AJP as it seeks to advance local news organizations with inclusive, impactful journalism that reflect the communities they serve.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled to welcome Jelani Cobb to our board of directors,” said Sarabeth Berman, CEO of the American Journalism Project. “Jelani is a distinguished journalist and journalism educator who leads with a deep belief in the importance of local journalism and a sense of how the industry is rapidly evolving. Our work will benefit tremendously from his wisdom.”  

Dean Cobb’s extensive background has garnered him prestigious awards and fellowships, including the Sidney Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism for his columns on race, the police, and injustice in 2015; a Peabody Award for his 2020 PBS Frontline film “Whose Vote Counts?”; in fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the Fulbright Foundation, and the Shorenstein Center at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government; and as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Commentary in 2018.

Founded in 2019, AJP is the first-ever venture philanthropy dedicated to local news. Today, it leads an industry-wide effort in transforming how local news organizations are financed and sustained. To date, AJP has raised $134 million from local and national funders to address the local news crisis, and it has backed 41 nonprofit news organizations. AJP was named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies in media for 2023, which honors “profound products, services, and initiatives poised to have transformative impact.” Just in the past year, AJP helped launch and support two large-scale nonprofit news startups: Signal Ohio and Houston Landing. AJPs growth investments in nonprofit local news organizations are yielding strong results: Financial data shows that the 11 grantees in its first cohort grew their combined revenue by $15 million in their third year of AJP support, resulting in a 4.9X return on AJP’s annual investment. This cohort added a total of 58 editorial positions to their newsrooms — a 66% increase, resulting in more original reporting in each of the communities where AJP invests.

To learn more about the American Journalism Project and its board of directors, visit its website.

# # #

Media contact: Roshni Neslage, Head of Communications, American Journalism Project,, 954–526–1565

# # #

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.