For the first time in our nation’s history, the United States was added to the list of “backsliding” democracies by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. The cracks in our democracy and civic infrastructure are expanding. We as a society must work to fill them in.
The loss of local news is contributing to this in a significant way. How can we expect an effective participatory government if it’s not easy to understand elections for judges or what’s happening at city hall? We have been in a decades-long crisis of contraction in the newspaper industry that has left communities across the country without access to information and lets power go unchecked. Most of our democratic decisions play out at the local level, yet our local communities have lost more than 60% of journalists.
To begin to reverse this decline, a cadre of philanthropists are stepping up to the plate to help finance and sustain a new business model for local news. Independent nonprofit news organizations continue to grow — but not yet at the pace and scale we need to make up for the collapse of original reporting. The American Journalism Project invests in the business side of nonprofit news organizations so they can grow and become sustainable. We are also helping to launch new organizations in partnership with local communities to fill in gaps of coverage.
We are only able to do this because of our incredible supporters. These pioneering donors have recognized local news is a public good and are taking some of the first steps to ensure it is ubiquitous across our country. These investments in the American Journalism Project will have an outsized impact by helping the news organizations we support build their business and revenue capacity and in time, grow diversified revenue streams. Our grantees are on track to grow their revenue 2–3x — our supporters are helping us build new models for sustaining the future of local news. Their leadership is also inspiring others to join at this critical moment for our democracy.
We are grateful to the supporters that have joined us in 2021 as part of a growing group of champions who recognize the foundational role the local press plays in our democracy, society and communities: Bruce Aidells and Nancy Oakes, Amanda Bennett and Don Graham, Baskin Family Foundation, Dana Devon and Neil Sand, Adam Entous, Erkiletian Family Foundation, Ford Foundation, Good Words Foundation, Google News Initiative, Greenfield Foundation, Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, Kaplen Brothers Fund, Katherine Kovner, Erica and Jeff Lawson, Roger Miles, Luis Miranda, Natasha and Dirk Ziff, Joe Natoli, News Corp, Present Progressive Fund, Quadrivium Foundation, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Karen Tarnow, Maria Thomas, Yellow Chair Foundation, and Wyncote Foundation.*
Everyone benefits from robust, quality local news in ways we might not even imagine. A local community benefits when local reporters ask tough questions at city council meetings and hold our elected officials accountable to taxpayers. Residents also benefit when reporters cover the “beats” essential to their lives: education, crime, law enforcement, public health, and more. That’s the essential work of local news. These news organizations provide the critical information that people need to make decisions for themselves and their families. It’s truly public service.
We must all play a role in supporting local news. To learn more about the local news crisis nationally and to support the American Journalism Project’s work, visit www.theajp.org. If you rely on a local news source, be sure to support it. This time of year, the national grassroots campaign NewsMatch helps to double any individual donation to a nonprofit news organization between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31. Find your nonprofit news organization and your contribution will be matched before the end of the year.
Rebuilding local news is a critical part of fortifying our democracy and ensuring community information needs are met. We hope you’ll join us in fighting for it!
This list represents donors who have provided more than $5,000 in support to the American Journalism Project. Donations in any amount are meaningful to our work.