Introducing the American Journalism Project

Friends of the American Journalism Project,

It’s a big day for us at AJP, as we formally unveil our ambition to build a first-of-its-kind venture philanthropy firm focused on local news. Below this note is an announcement that includes our founding investors, team, and board members.

We are mobilizing a movement to support the local press our democracy deserves.

We founded AJP based on three interlocking beliefs:

  • Democracy and journalism are interdependent.
  • Local journalism is a public good that market forces won’t adequately supply.
  • This market failure is a problem that we the people—not our government, and not our commerce—must solve.

From these three beliefs AJP derives its purpose: to help catalyze a new generation of public service media that is sustained by, governed by, and looks like the public it serves.

The first step toward fulfilling this objective is a $50 million fund that will make substantial, course-altering investments in what we call civic news organizations (CNOs). The tentative goal for our inaugural fund is to help foster the transition of 25-35 CNOs from grant-funded newsrooms to sustainable media organizations with multiple revenue streams. AJP also hopes to support some CNOs in starting from scratch.

We have made good progress toward establishing our initial grant making criteria and processes, and will now turn toward finalizing these and making them as transparent as possible. Our goal is to share information about our grantmaking process this summer.

We’re incredibly grateful for and humbled by the bold commitment of $42 million from our small group of founding investors. But a big piece of AJP’s mission is to help galvanize a movement in journalism philanthropy. This will require a suitably “big tent” that accommodates a wide variety of philanthropic perspectives. As we ultimately must help guide much, much more than $50 million into local journalism, we feel like we are much nearer the beginning of our fundraising efforts than the end.

Today marks the start of a long journey, and the continuation of a national conversation about the importance of public service journalism. The need for that conversation has never been more urgent or more important.

AJP’s launch would be utterly impossible without the ongoing and often heroic work being done by those dedicated to the cause of maintaining an informed society. So many of you have already been so very generous with your ideas and energy. In the weeks and years ahead, we hope we can rely on you for a lot more of both.

John Thornton and Elizabeth Green