The $5 million investment, along with support from American Journalism Project and Akron’s philanthropic community, will improve local news in this Knight city
MIAMI — February 21, 2023 — At the opening of the 16th Knight Media Forum, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation President Alberto Ibargüen announced a $5 million investment in Signal Akron, a new nonprofit news source, to help strengthen local news and civic information in northeast Ohio. Signal Akron will be part of Signal Ohio, which recently launched its first newsroom in Cleveland.
Akron is especially important to Knight because it is where the Knight brothers started their newspaper company, and it helps ensure their legacy fostering informed and engaged communities. Since 2012, Knight has committed more than $81 million in a wide range of programs in Akron that include the arts and the revitalization of downtown.
“Akron has needed more local news sources for a long time, but the crisis has become more severe in the past few years,” said Jim Brady, vice president of journalism at Knight. “With support from the American Journalism Project and investment from Akron’s philanthropic community, we are proud to have Signal Akron enhance and partner with the existing Akron media ecosystem.”
Knight will invest $5 million over five years in Signal Akron, along with investments from a growing coalition of local supporters, including Akron Community Foundation, GAR Foundation, Goodyear, the Greater Akron Chamber, Huntington Bank, United Way of Summit & Medina, the University of Akron Foundation and Welty Building Construction.
The initial capital will give the organization a long runway for success with local philanthropy, reader memberships and corporate sponsorships. Signal Ohio is working to raise an additional $3.5 million and will continue to receive support from the American Journalism Project, which is supported by Knight and has helped launch a series of civic news organizations, including Houston Landing and the recent Indiana Local News Initiative.
Knight’s investment will help Signal Akron hire at least six of 11 staff members to make an immediate journalistic impact. The newsroom, which has launched a search for an editor-in-chief, will be representative of the Akron communities it serves, and lower barriers to access by offering its content digitally, free, and across multiple formats. The statewide network model will allow for Signal Akron to be powered by a central business and operations team responsible for growing and sustaining programs around the state, while having a dedicated local team doing reporting in the community.
“The announcement of Signal Akron is a demonstration of what’s possible when local philanthropic and civic leaders come together to ensure their communities have the information they need,” said Sarabeth Berman, CEO of American Journalism Project. “Signal Ohio is at the forefront of a national movement of local nonprofit news organizations stepping up to solve the local news crisis.”
Signal Akron will build on the early success of Signal Cleveland, launched last fall with $7.5 million in funding from national funders, local foundations and donors. The nonprofit news outlet was community-centered from the start, and includes a local affiliate of the award-winning Documenters Network, which trains and pays residents to help cover public meetings, as well as a vibrant library of explainers, and a “resident-first perspective,” according to Lila Mills, Signal Cleveland’s editor-in-chief.
“The investment in journalism in Akron, the city where the Knight brothers began their professional journey, is fantastic news,” said Debra Adams Simmons, a former editor of the Akron Beacon Journal, the first owned by the Knight brothers, and a member of Signal Ohio’s board of directors. “More reporters on the ground strengthen the local news ecosystem and help meet the information needs of Akron’s residents. At a time when local media outlets around the country are significantly diminished or shutting down, trust in media has eroded, and the news industry is fighting for survival, this investment is a significant boost for the Akron community.”
Signal Akron will have the benefit of having support from the start from Signal Ohio, allowing it to focus on covering important topics such as government, education, economics and health. Plus, Signal Akron can weave in innovative community engagement practices that enable residents to help set priorities and be a part of the news-gathering process.
This grant complements Knight’s $300 million, five-year commitment to invest in new initiatives with the potential to underpin a fresh future for local news and strengthen journalism.
About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
As social investors, the Knight Foundation supports democracy by funding free expression and journalism, arts and culture in community, research in areas of media and democracy, and in the success of American cities and towns where the Knight brothers once published newspapers. Learn more at kf.org and follow @knightfdn on social media.
Media Contact: Rebecca Dinar, Director of Communications, Knight Foundation, [email protected] or 305-908-2646.