American Journalism Project Launches First-of-its-Kind Venture Philanthropy Firm to Save Local Journalism

Local equals trust. It was the resounding message spoken by Alberto Ibargüen, President, CEO and Trustee of the Knight Foundation and reverberating through the Knight Media Forum, hosted in Miami at the end of February.  While it would have been ideal to write this and post it while onsite, candidly, we were quite busy supporting the official launch of the American Journalism Project (AJP), which made its debut at the forum.

As we now take a few minutes to reflect on our time at the Knight Media Forum and the successful launch of AJP, we’re grateful to have had the opportunity to contribute to a cause so urgent and important.

AJP, founded by Elizabeth Green and John Thornton, is a venture philanthropy nonprofit focused on local news, helping 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 goal for AJP is raising an initial $50 million fund, of which the Knight Foundation, along with Arnold Ventures, Emerson Collective, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, the Facebook Journalism Project, the Democracy Fund and philanthropist Christopher Buck are initial investors. Through this first fund, and subsequent other funds, AJP will make substantial, course-altering investments in local newsrooms or civic news organizations (CNOs).  The goal for the initial fund is to help foster the transition of 25-35 CNOs from grant-funded to sustainable media organizations with multiple revenue streams. AJP also hopes to support some CNOs just getting off the ground.

In a press announcement unveiling the organization, the AJP co-founders shared, “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. 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.”

Playing a very small part in a galvanizing movement that will expand journalism philanthropy and support local journalism overall is something that moves us.

Working arm-in-arm with co-founders, Elizabeth Green and John Thornton, and the AJP team, Jason Alcorn, Anna Nirmala and Gonzalo del Peon, the Due East team supported with strategic direction setting and organizational development and will continue to stay engaged and support AJP’s fundraising strategy. This work with AJP exemplifies our holistic approach, pulling on the expertise of our full-team providing strategic planning, fundraising development and organizational development, all with the same intensity, attention and high quality.

“Local equals Trust.”

Thinking back to the opening remarks and the idea that local equals trust, CEO of the Knight Foundation, Alberto Ibargüen, said, “You can measure trust based on the distance between you and someone else, geographically and relationally.” At least twice, the shooting at our own Capital Gazette was mentioned. We lost friends and colleagues at that shooting in our local newsroom. We continue to feel the effects of this tragedy and experience a visceral response to the close proximity between us and our friends at The Capital.

While The Capital is not a nonprofit news organization, it provides a critical public service to all of us.  We feel an extreme amount of gratitude that our business can be involved in part of a transformative solution to allow all communities across the country to regain access to responsible, non-partisan local news, and ultimately restore civic action and sustain our democracy. 

All of our projects are important and make an impact, but this felt like a once in a lifetime experience to respond to something urgent and important for society and our community, that was also perfectly suited for the strengths of our team.

We’re honored to have played a part in the launch of the American Journalism Project. Being in that room in Miami with 600 people from all different aspects of media and journalism was uplifting and gave us great hope in the ability of communities and institutions to come together to build, sustain and grow positive change movements for local news and for other issues that are urgent across the U.S.

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