American Journalism Project announces transformative grants to four nonprofit news organizations

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The American Journalism Project announced four new grants to nonprofit news organizations in Chicago, Minnesota, San José and Pennsylvania. The investments — in Block Club Chicago, Sahan Journal, San José Spotlight and Spotlight PA — will give these local news organizations capital needed to grow their business teams and their revenue capacity, and will provide strategic support to build upon their success and ensure their sustainable growth.

Block Club Chicago, founded in 2018 by Shamus Toomey (former managing editor of DNAinfo Chicago, and metro editor at the Chicago Sun-Times), Jen Sabella (former deputy editor at DNAinfo Chicago), and Stephanie Lulay (former senior editor at DNAinfo Chicago), focuses their work around reporters who are assigned to, and often based in, specific neighborhoods, rather than on topical beats. This ground-level focus allows for reporting with deep context and trust. Block Club currently covers 32 Chicago neighborhoods, half of which are majority Black or Latino on the city’s historically undercovered South and West sides. Through daily reporting published on their website, citywide and hyperlocal newsletters, and a podcast, Block Club will expand their current approach to cover every neighborhood of Chicago and hire staff dedicated to topical and investigative beats. With this grant from the American Journalism Project, which will be partially matched by Chicago Community Trust, Block Club will also expand their business and operations team.

Sahan Journal focuses on news coverage that reflects the reality of Minnesota’s changing and emerging communities, offering responsive journalism for immigrants, communities of color and cultural groups that will soon constitute a majority population in the state. Over the last year, under the leadership of founding Executive Director and Editor Mukhtar M. Ibrahim (formerly of the Star Tribune, Minnesota Public Radio and the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism), Sahan Journal has doubled its staff, grown audiences and significantly increased its recurring monthly donors. American Journalism Project’s investment will allow Sahan Journal to expand its coverage, increase earned revenue streams, cultivate relationships with local and national grant makers, and launch a major gifts program capable of garnering new levels of local philanthropic support.

With a mission to change the face of local journalism by building a community-supported newsroom that ignites civic engagement, educates citizens and strengthens our nation’s democracy, California’s San José Spotlight is the city’s only nonprofit news organization dedicated to independent political and business reporting. CEO Ramona Giwargis and Executive Director Josh Barousse, both natives of San José with close ties to the community, are poised to move on to the next phase of their work advancing the organization to become the primary source of news and accountability reporting for the region. The grant from American Journalism Project will provide capacity to enable this next stage of growth and support to help San José Spotlight’s co-founders devise and execute a strategic plan to boost its local coverage.

Led ​​by Christopher Baxter, a nationally award-winning investigative reporter and editor who serves as executive director and founding editor-in-chief, Spotlight PA is Pennsylvania’s predominant source of statewide accountability reporting for one of the largest and most opaque state governments in the country. With an initial focus on in-depth capital reporting and urgent statewide issues, Spotlight PA is now looking to become a premier source of news in Pennsylvania with bureaus and partnerships focusing on local coverage in communities throughout the state. Spotlight PA plans to tackle the challenge of a deeply fragmented and severely diminished media ecosystem by growing its statewide operation as a hub, which can then support expanded local news reporting, better connect communities to one another, and elevate issues of local importance to a statewide audience and to policymakers in Harrisburg. The organization has built one of the largest collaborative distribution networks of its kind, now providing high-quality journalism to 79 community newsroom partners — including newspapers, hyper-local news sites, and NPR stations — that collectively reach a digital audience of more than 35 million people. Its expansion strategy will be centered on local bureaus launched in consultation with existing local media outlets and local stakeholders, and planned in tandem with extensive community listening efforts to gauge coverage priorities and local information needs. The organization is in the process of launching its pilot bureau, and it has a plan to launch additional bureaus based on learnings from the effort. American Journalism Project’s grant, which will be matched by The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, will provide a strong foundation for its growth in the coming years, and provide the business and operations capacity necessary to grow revenue and expand the size of its newsroom.

The addition of these four organizations brings the American Journalism Project’s portfolio of grantees to 31 and investments made to over $30 million.

New Funding Partner

We are grateful to welcome the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to our community of supporters.

“The MacArthur Foundation is pleased to join our peer funders in supporting the American Journalism Project,” said Kathy Im, director of journalism and media at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. “As we continue to confront threats to a free press, fact-based news and the spread of mis- and disinformation, the American Journalism Project is among the leading innovations and interventions in the journalism space that is helping to support and sustain a new generation of vitally important and much needed nonprofit newsrooms.”

“We are grateful for partners like the MacArthur Foundation who believe in our mission and the work we’re doing to rebuild this vital part of our democracy — they make our investments in local news possible,” said Sarabeth Berman, CEO of the American Journalism Project. “Focused on, and working with, diverse communities, and leading in accountability journalism, Block Club Chicago, Sahan Journal, San José Spotlight and Spotlight PA represent the future we envision for local news. We are looking forward to supporting their growth and sustainability.”

American Journalism Project grantees

The Beacon | Block Club Chicago | Capital B | Centro de Periodismo Investigativo | Chalkbeat | City Bureau | Cityside | The Connecticut Mirror | Documented | El Paso Matters | ICT | inewsource |Louisville Public Media | Mississippi Today | MLK50: Justice Through Journalism | Montana Free Press | Mountain State Spotlight | The Marshall Project | The Nevada Independent | NOISE | Ohio Local News Initiative | Open Campus | Outlier Media | Sahan Journal | San José Spotlight | Spotlight PA |Underscore | VTDigger | WFAE | Wisconsin Watch and Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service | Wyofile

About the American Journalism Project:

The American Journalism Project is a venture philanthropy dedicated to local news. We believe local journalism is 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.

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