We’re excited to announce that the American Journalism Project (AJP) has partnered with the News Revenue Hub to support the launch of the Ohio Local News Initiative, a nonprofit startup that will grow into a statewide network of independent newsrooms across Ohio, starting in Cleveland.

Led by Lila Mills, long-time community builder, journalist, and local Clevelander, the inaugural newsroom is set to launch in the fall. The team will produce daily high-quality journalism that centers community voices and empowers residents to help set the agenda for newsgathering.

The Ohio Local News Initiative was formed by a coalition of local organizations alongside the American Journalism Project, a venture philanthropy dedicated to local news, following AJP’s 2020 information needs assessment which found significant information gaps in Northeast Ohio.

This move represents a deepening of the Hub’s years-long relationship with AJP, which began when the organization was still a concept conceived by Elizabeth Green and John Thornton. Since 2019, we’ve worked with a number of AJP grantees — including Montana Free Press, Mountain State Spotlight, Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside — at various stages of their evolution to launch membership programs, increase readership and build loyalty into newsroom strategy. 

The Ohio Local News Initiative will be supported by a combination of philanthropy, corporate support, and membership to grow its reach and become self-sustaining. It is partnering with the News Revenue Hub to develop a best-in-class membership model that is rooted in public service and impact. 

“The Hub brings a deep expertise in community-supported nonprofit journalism, and the Ohio Local News Initiative is cultivating an innovative approach to producing journalism with communities to be maximally accessible to local residents. Together, the organizations will explore membership models for newsrooms producing high-quality, local accountability journalism — all while working directly with residents to produce and distribute community reporting,” said Loretta Chao, American Journalism Project’s vice president of strategy and startups.

Ultimately, the mutual goal with these startups is to implement a streamlined, sustainable business model that embraces community-focused journalism and fundraising as a core value from the very beginning. 

The Hub will take a two-fold approach to this partnership: the first work begins before launch to help the Cleveland leadership team develop their vision and strategy. Once the full team is in place, we’ll train them on audience and membership best practices and continue our signature one-on-one support through and beyond site launch.

“The Ohio Local News Initiative has a vision  for a new type of community-centered journalism, and is developing stakeholders and evangelists in the community in a really open, transparent and trust building way before they’ve even launched,” said Mary Walter-Brown, News Revenue Hub founder and CEO. “The Hub is excited to be involved in this pre-launch phase, to help guide the newsroom on how to bring the community along on this journey.”

The Hub is in the process of developing newsroom infrastructure and assisting with job descriptions and hiring of key audience roles. 

“Partnering from the very beginning can accelerate newsroom launches and help them avoid common mistakes we’ve seen at other organizations,” Walter-Brown said. “We learn something valuable each time we help launch a news outlet and look forward to carrying that knowledge forward to the next newsroom.”