Local coalition, working with American Journalism Project, raises over $5.8M to launch nonprofit newsroom in Cleveland

Independent newsroom in Cleveland to launch in 2022, producing daily, high-quality, community-oriented journalism as part of a new statewide network of newsrooms across Ohio

Release Date: 11.9.2021

CLEVELAND – A coalition of Cleveland-based organizations and the American Journalism Project are partnering to launch an independent, community-led, nonprofit newsroom serving Cleveland. The newsroom will be the first in a larger network of independent, local newsrooms across Ohio, as part of a new nonprofit effort called the Ohio Local News Initiative, which will aim to launch additional newsrooms across the state over time.

Cleveland’s newsroom, slated for launch in 2022, will produce high-quality journalism on a daily basis that centers community voices and lets residents help set the agenda for newsgathering. The newsroom will dramatically increase the volume of original, in-depth, non-partisan reporting in the region and support the efforts of Cleveland news outlets and community initiatives to make critical information available to all who need it—information will be available in numerous formats across multiple platforms, and will be free to access.

Residents will help set the newsroom’s priorities, through a community reporting model that will train and pay Clevelanders to report for, and gather requests, questions, and ideas from their communities. The program will begin in Central, and grow to serve more communities throughout Cleveland.

“The crisis of local news in this country cries out for bold, innovative and well-resourced entrepreneurial efforts like the local news initiative we’re announcing today,” said Sarabeth Berman, CEO of the American Journalism Project. “We’re grateful to be working with this coalition to get an amazing news organization off the ground.”

With an anticipated staff of 25 at launch, the new organization will be one of the largest local nonprofit news startups in the country. The organization will work closely with Cleveland Documenters, based at Neighborhood Connections, which recruits, trains, and pays Greater Clevelanders to document public meetings and produce information for their neighborhoods. The collaboration will support more reporting, driven by the work of 400+ documenters, about issues
that matter most to residents. In addition, it will partner with WOVU 95.9 FM “Our Voices United” on audio production to make news gathering accessible in more formats and to augment the community radio station’s vital work in connecting and engaging all members of the community. It will also partner with members of the Neighborhood and Community Media Association of Greater Cleveland (NCMA), to learn together with the goal of increased distribution of original reporting across platforms.

“The Cleveland Observer is excited and proud to be selected as one of the founding partners of a non-profit newsroom in Cleveland. This endeavor is a perfect fit with our vision and mission of providing high-quality, locally based journalism that informs and prepares our residents on the many issues and how they affect our community,” said Ron Calhoun, publisher of the Cleveland Observer, a member of NCMA.

The initiative is the culmination of years of work by local community leaders to identify and determine information gaps left from declining volumes of original reporting in Northeast Ohio. An information needs assessment conducted by the American Journalism Project, that included conversations with over 130 residents, found many Cleveland residents do not feel they have adequate, relevant, and accessible information about their communities and the decisions that impact their daily lives.

The coalition of philanthropies, which has raised over $5.8 million to date for the organization, includes the Cleveland Foundation, the John S. And James L. Knight Foundation, Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland, Visible Voice Charitable Fund, the Center for Community Solutions, the Char and Chuck Fowler Family Foundation, and the American Journalism Project. “The Cleveland Foundation recognizes the vital importance of trusted local news and information to our community’s civic and social wellbeing – especially in the current moment when democracy is under threat and distrust in media is at an all-time high,” said Ronn Richard, President and CEO of the Cleveland Foundation. “Our support for a new nonprofit newsroom in Cleveland is an investment in community voice that we hope will close harmful information gaps, counter often dangerous misinformation and bridge divides in Greater Cleveland.”

“Those who control the narratives have significant influence on decisions, and therefore have impact on outcomes. A community-driven newsroom, operating at high journalistic standards, can serve as a vehicle for everyday people to develop the power to shape their own narratives,” said Tim Tramble, President & CEO of Saint Luke’s Foundation. Tramble will serve on the board of the organization, as well as search committees for the founding team. “If we’re successful, these narratives will influence decisions that shape opportunities and resources leading to greater pathways from despair to prosperity.”

The American Journalism Project will immediately begin work with local committees to conduct an open search for a management team, including a Cleveland Editor-in-Chief and a CEO for the statewide network. Job descriptions and more information about the project can be found at https://www.localnewsforohio.org

The search committees will include:

  • Dale Anglin, Vice President, Program, at the Cleveland Foundation
  • Joe Black, Program Officer, Health Equity, Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland
  • Eddith Dashiell, Director, E.W Scripps School of Journalism, Scripps College of
    Communication, Ohio University
  • Henry Gomez, Ohio native, longtime Cleveland-area resident, national politics reporter at
  • Karen R. Long, a veteran Cleveland journalist and manager of the Anisfield-Wolf Book
    Awards for the Cleveland Foundation
  • Michael Ouimette, Senior Vice President, Strategy & Startups, American Journalism
  • Mizell Stewart III, VP, News Performance, Talent & Partnerships, Gannett / USA
    TODAY Network
  • Richard Tofel, Principal, Gallatin Advisory LLC and former President of ProPublica
  • Tim Tramble, President & CEO of the Saint Luke’s Foundation and founder of WOVU
  • Doug Ulman, CEO of Pelotonia

# # #