The AP is setting up a sister organization seeking grants to support local and state news


NEW YORK — The Associated Press says it is setting up a sister organization that will seek to raise money in support of state and local news reporting, as the crisis in that sector shows little sign of abating.

The organization, which will have a board of directors independent of the AP, will solicit philanthropic spending to boost this news coverage, both within the AP and through outside organizations, the news outlet said Tuesday.

“We feel we have to lean in at this point, not pull back,” said Daisy Veerasingham, the AP’s president and CEO. “But the supporting mechanism — the local newspaper market that used to support this — can’t afford to do that anymore.”

Veerasingham said she’s been encouraged by preliminary talks with some funders who have expressed concern about the state of local journalism.

Like other news organizations, the AP has turned to philanthropies for help in recent years, accepting grants totaling $60.9 million over the past seven years. It has used this money to expand coverage in certain subject areas, such as climate and religion.

The local news industry has collapsed over the past two decades, with the number of journalists working in newspapers dropping from 75,000 to 31,000 in 2022, according to Northwestern University. More than half of the nation’s counties have no local news outlets or only one.

While the AP has similarly cut back on staffing in the 50 states, it refused on Tuesday to detail the extent.

The organization has recently announced collaborations to share news with several nonprofit news outlets, including the Texas Tribune, CalMatters, South Dakota News Watch, the Honolulu Civil Beat and others.

“We want to add new products and services to help the industry,” Veerasingham said.

AP in particular can play an important role in bolstering coverage of government and political news in the states, said Tim Franklin, who leads the local news initiative at Northwestern’s Medill journalism school. The Pew Research Center has detailed that there are fewer full-time reporters working in statehouses than there were a decade ago.

Led by the Knight Foundation and MacArthur Foundation, an initiative launched last year pledged $500 million to build local news sources and help existing ones survive and make digital transitions. But the scope of the problem is much larger, Franklin said.

With fewer news sources, Franklin worries about the spread of misinformation and the growth of partisan local news outlets wreaking havoc on the upcoming election season.

“The bottom line is the need to find a sustainable model for independent local news in this country,” he said.

Once funded primarily by newspaper members of its cooperative, the AP has been forced to diversify in recent years, a need driven home when the Gannett and McClatchy news chains said earlier this year they will stop using AP journalism.

Besides philanthropy, the AP has been more aggressively marketing its own news website and asking for reader donations. “We believe there is a gap in the U.S. market, in the consumer arena, for people who want independent, fact-based, non-partisan news, and that’s the role that the AP plays in the ecosystem,” Veerasingham said.

The AP offers a range of services to the industry and outside — serving as the exclusive commercial photo partner of the NFL, for example. It was among the first news organizations to make a deal with an artificial intelligence company to license its archive of news stories.

“Any media organization is going to have to have a mixed portfolio in the way that it supports itself,” Veerasingham said.

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David Bauder writes about media for The Associated Press. Follow him at http://twitter.com/dbauder.





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