Today we announced that Sarabeth Berman will be the first CEO of the American Journalism Project. Sarabeth joins us after a 10-year career in education that culminated in leading global public affairs at Teach For All. Her career began in China, where she set out after college as a Luce Scholar with a passion for performing arts management (cue the line about telling the gods your plans).
She will replace John as day-to-day leader on May 1, and will report to the AJP board of directors. The two of us will continue to serve on the AJP board as “opinionated co-founders,” and will assist Sarabeth in any way she asks.
In conducting the search, we strived to build a pipeline of candidates that reflected the diversity of our country, and we frankly would have liked to have done better in this regard. We seriously considered 44 candidates from a range of backgrounds spanning commercial media, technology, consumer marketing, and mission-driven management. 47 percent were women, and 30 percent were people of color. All were excited about the role and wildly articulate and imaginative about its possibilities. In total, we spent over 60 hours either in person (remember those days?) or telephonically with candidates.
We knew that the most difficult part of the search would be finding a servant leader equally comfortable leading from behind and pointing the path forward. AJP needs someone who will both support and propel our grantees to excellence — and join our partners in leading a movement in pursuit of our shared vision for a healthy, informed democracy. In addition to her keen intellect and infectious enthusiasm for the cause, Sarabeth’s experience and skill set made her simply unique in this regard.
Especially in the early days, AJP’s top priority will be the success of our grantees as they seek to strengthen and reimagine local news. Sarabeth played a leading role as Teach for All grew its network into 53 countries around the world, learning from and adapting to a dizzying level of technical and cultural diversity. At AJP, we intend to persuade and lead by example. By supporting sustainable civic news organizations, we will also help show the world their irreplaceable value. We are confident that Sarabeth will be instrumental in building the support network that will make this possible.
As for movement building, we can hardly believe our good fortune. One of our animating inspirations in starting AJP was the idea that nonprofit news needed the same injection of capital and social entrepreneurship that other social sectors have spent a generation building. Sarabeth and Teach For All have been instrumental in that work, and we couldn’t be more excited about the prospect of bringing the same ambitious spirit to journalism.
During a particularly trying stretch early in the life of the AJP, John’s wife Erin scribbled down a quote from the gadfly entrepreneur Tim O’Reilly. “An invention has to make sense in the world it ends up in — not in the world it started.”
That was nearly two years ago. Now here we were, in this even more uncertain moment. Uncomfortable predictions about the future of commercial local news have now become painful and dangerous realities. Continuing to “invent” AJP so that it makes sense in the world it ends up in will require extraordinary leadership.
We believe that is exactly what we have found in Sarabeth. Her intense focus, breadth of perspective, and persistent good humor are precisely what we all need right now. Especially to all of you who lend not only strenuous effort to the struggle but also shoulders on which for the rest of us to stand, please join us in welcoming Sarabeth to the cause.