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On Thursday, the American Journalism Project announced a new round of grants to three nonprofit U.S. newsrooms, including Montana Free Press. According to AJP, the organizations will receive financial support to further their watchdog journalism missions and help build “organizational infrastructure that fosters stability.”

“As local news continues to rapidly decline across our country, 2020 has magnified the importance of keeping communities informed,” AJP CEO Sarabeth Berman said in the press release. “These pioneering news organizations give us a sense of optimism for the future of nonprofit local news. We are excited to support and learn from these exemplary leaders in the field.”

Montana Free Press, founded in 2016 by former Great Falls Tribune capital bureau chief John Adams, will use the support to expand its business-side revenue and operations team as MTFP expands coverage statewide, diversifies revenue sources, and identifies critical information-need gaps.

MTFP’s editorial staff has grown dramatically over the past year, with the hiring of reporters Mara Silvers and Chris Aadland in June, and reporters Amanda Eggert and Alex Sakariassen starting work on the environmental news and education beats, respectively, in January 2021. Aadland lives and works in Billings. Eggert will report from Bozeman, and Sakariassen will report from Missoula. Reporters Eric Dietrich and Silvers are based in Helena, where MTFP’s offices are located. 

“Our capacity to report with greater depth and breadth around the state has expanded significantly this year,” said MTFP editor Brad Tyer. “This support from AJP will help us make sure the business can continue to support that expansion, and even more editorial growth down the road. 

MTFP Director of Development and Operations Kristin Tessman said, “With AJP’s incredible support, MTFP will invest in the business staff needed to reach long-term growth and organizational sustainability goals. This capacity-building grant will also allow MTFP to develop innovative ways to deliver journalism to Montanans and reach readers who are eager for local, high-quality, nonpartisan news. We couldn’t be more excited for this next phase.”  

The American Journalism Project is a Washington D.C.-based a venture philanthropy organization that invests in mission-driven nonprofit local news organizations and social entrepreneurs, provides strategic support, and is “building a movement to reimagine the future of local news.”

Today’s grant recipients, including New York City’s immigration news site Documented and Kansas City, Missouri’s public-interest news site The Beacon, join a roster of AJP-supported news organizations that includes Centro de Periodismo Investigativo (San Juan, Puerto Rico), City Bureau (Chicago), Cityside (Oakland), The Connecticut Mirror (Hartford), inewsource (San Diego), Mississippi Today (Ridgeland), MLK50: Justice Through Journalism (Memphis), NOISE (Omaha, Nebraska), Underscore (Portland, Oregon), WyoFile (Lander, Wyoming), and VTDigger (Montpelier, Vermont).

“AJP is supporting some of the most visionary and entrepreneurial nonprofit news organizations in the country, and we are thrilled to be in their company,” Adams said. “We’re looking forward to working with AJP and our friends and colleagues in the nonprofit news community to continue developing sustainable solutions for funding high-quality, watchdog journalism long into the future.”

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