The American Journalism Project team in Washington, D.C., in August.

Help us find an amazing first CEO for the American Journalism Project

John Thornton
Oct 24 · 5 min read

Elizabeth Green and I founded the American Journalism Project more than two years ago with the idea to build the first venture philanthropy focused on local news. We knew that the organization would require an exceptional leader who is also a strong operating executive. It was never the plan for either of us to run AJP, as I have a couple of day jobs and Elizabeth has one very intense and important one running Chalkbeat.

But about a year ago, the unopposable combination of Elizabeth and my wife convinced me that I should serve as the organization’s interim leader while Elizabeth chaired the board. In a year or so, the logic went, we’d have built the core of the team and settled on our grantmaking approach. And then, we’d be clear — or at least clearer — about the type of leader we need to run an organization whose ambition is to build a national movement to support the local news our democracy deserves.

Well, that then is now… now.

We are now looking for AJP’s first CEO. The job specification is excerpted below. Our ideal candidate may come out of news but just as likely will not. As is the case with all such documents, this one is, shall we say, aspirational. Nobody will check every box.

But this is for sure: we seek a true servant leader whose superpower is helping individuals and organizations grow and succeed amidst a tumultuous local media environment. We’ve built a small but mighty team who more than match Elizabeth’s and my passion for helping find a path to sustainability for local civic news organizations that are sustained by, governed by, and look like the public they serve. AJP’s new leader will both share that passion and be adept at channeling it.

“We seek a true servant leader whose superpower is helping individuals and organizations grow and succeed amidst a tumultuous local media environment.”

When the new CEO arrives, Elizabeth’s role as co-founder and board chair will not change. I will remain an active and opinionated co-founder and board member, and will assist the new CEO and the board in any way they ask. Neither my enthusiasm about AJP nor my commitment to its success has ever been higher.

If you’re interested in the position or know someone who should be, please drop a note to ceosearch@theajp.org. Inquiries will be held in confidence. AJP is a distributed team and we are open to candidates located outside of New York and Washington D.C. We hope to respond to all inquiries by early in the new year.

American Journalism Project is dedicated to equal employment opportunities for all applicants and employees. The American Journalism Project encourages people of all races, colors, national origins, ancestries, creeds, religions, genders, ages, disabilities, veteran status, sexual orientations, and marital statuses to apply.


Candidate Profile

AJP seeks a CEO with a unique blend of commercial savvy, leadership capability, and passionate understanding of the importance of independent local journalism. S/he will have a proven track record of scaling an organization and driving entrepreneurial achievement in complex environments characterized by diverse viewpoints, uncertainty, and chaotic disruption.

The CEO will serve as an inspiring and deft manager, providing guidance while delegating responsibilities and establishing best-in-class operating processes and disciplines. The CEO’s key responsibilities will include, but are not limited to: Strategic leadership, Organizational and operational leadership, Portfolio development and grantmaking, and Fundraising and external relations.

The ideal candidate will be fluent in the technology issues and choices faced by civic news organizations and be both conversant and credible in the current landscape of local news. Most importantly, s/he will be sincerely invested in AJP’s mission and committed to honoring the organization’s principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

In terms of the performance and personal competencies required for the position, we would highlight the following:

Setting Strategy

  • The ability to create and articulate an inspiring vision for the organization, not only for the areas s/he is directly responsible for, but the enterprise as a whole.
  • An entrepreneurial and creative approach to developing new, innovative ideas that will stretch the organization and push the boundaries within the industry.
  • Effectively balances the need for broad change with an understanding of how much change the organization can handle, to create realistic, achievable and successful goals.
  • The inclination to seek and analyze data from a variety of sources to support decisions and to align others with the organization’s overall strategy.

Executing for Results

  • Sets clear and challenging goals while committing the organization to improved performance; tenacious and accountable in driving results.
  • Comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty; the ability to adapt nimbly and lead others through complex situations.
  • A risk-taker who seeks data and input from others to foresee possible threats or unintended circumstances from decisions; someone who takes smart risks.
  • A body of business acumen developed in both functional and general management roles with oversight of significant operational budgets and complex, fast-moving organizations.

Leading Teams

  • Attracts and recruits top talent, motivate the team and manage performance; widely viewed as a strong developer of others.
  • Self-reflective and aware of his/her own limitations; leads by example and drives the organization’s performance by being open to continuous feedback and improvement
  • Has a high degree of integrity and forethought in his/her approach to making decisions; acts in a transparent and consistent manner while always considering what is best for the organization.
  • Leads with an authentic style that brings people together and acknowledges the value of humor.

Building Relationships and Influence

  • Naturally connects and builds strong relationships with others, demonstrating strong emotional intelligence and an ability to communicate clearly and persuasively.
  • Inspires trust and followership in others through compelling influence, powerful charisma, passion in his/her beliefs, and active drive.
  • Exceptional at communicating with and connecting to a wide variety of people, both in intimate and large group settings.
  • Effectively builds coalitions and can accomplish goals through networking, and broad influence.
  • Creates a sense of purpose/meaning for the team that generates followership beyond his/her own personality and engages others to the greater purpose for the organization as a whole.

American Journalism Project

Thanks to Jason Alcorn

John Thornton

Written by

GP at Austin Ventures. Texas Tribune founder. American Journalism Project co-founder.

American Journalism Project

Mobilizing a movement to support the local press our democracy deserves

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