The founder of Politico is launching a new nonprofit news organization that promises to help jumpstart the careers of the next generation of Washington journalists.
Politico founder and publisher Robert Allbritton has already committed $20 million to launch the Allbritton Journalism Institute, a non-profit educational organization that says it will train aspiring reporters from different backgrounds and who have different views to create “fact-based, non-partisan journalism on government and politics” that is “both empathetic and brutally honest.” The institute will launch a yet-to-be-named news organization that will publish work from the fellows, as well as well-known reporters and editors who will serve as mentors.
According to Allbritton, the goal of AJI is to help prospective journalists overcome the hurdles many face entering the industry, including lack of serious mentorship and financial difficulties or internships or prohibitively expensive journalism schools. The program also aims to add a layer of experience for journalists beyond the theoretical knowledge that some may get in journalism school, and provide experience and support for aspiring journalists from underrepresented backgrounds in Washington media.
“Big newspapers where reporters used to get training are kind of gone,” he said. “There’s got to be a track where we can provide opportunities for bright folks, and maybe do it in a way that’s more deliberate.”
He continued: “You can teach a certain amount in the classroom, but a lot of learning how to be a great reporter is doing it and working with people who can show you moves and enhance your thinking and enhance your writing.”
Fellows will have health insurance, paid time off, and an annual salary of $60,000 to report for the institute’s publication and learn from over 20 professional journalists, who will serve as mentors. The fellowships, which will be aimed both at promising graduates and people in other careers looking to become political journalists, will run for 18 months, with an optional six-month extension for fellows to find full-time jobs in the industry.
The institute has already hired Tim Grieve, the founding editor of Politico Pro and Protocol to serve as the institute’s executive director, and brought on former Washington Post magazine editor Richard Just, Axios senior editor Kate Nocera, and BuzzFeed News editor Matt Berman to be editors.
Former National Press Club Journalism Institute Program Director Andie Coller will help develop the AJI curriculum, while journalists including Tim Alberta, DeNeen L. Brown, Eric M. Garcia, and Dianna Heitz will serve as mentors.
Allbritton said that he began thinking about the idea as he was in the final stages of selling Politico to Axel Springer, the German media company which acquired Politico in 2021 for over a billion dollars. The Politico founder said that while he agreed to some restrictions about his own next business moves as part of the deal (primarily not turning around and starting a Politico competitor), the two sides also agreed to carve out space for Allbritton to pursue nonprofit opportunities.
“On the commercial side, there’s always this competition, there’s always this struggle, there’s always this tension,” he said. “I just want to get into a spot where we are really welcome by everybody because we’re trying to help everybody.”
- Allbritton did not raise a large amount of money before selling Politico to Axel Springer, making it one of the most successful exits in digital media.
- While Politico has become the flagship of Axel Springer’s news business in America, the increased profile of the German media company has also come with increased scrutiny. CEO Mathias Döpfner was forced to apologize last month over comments he made insulting East Germans and suggesting that journalists at an Axel Springer publication publish favorable stories about the Free Democrats, a German political party.