Frequently Asked Questions
  • General

    • What is AMI?

      American Media Institute is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) investigative news service that delivers original reporting to major news outlets across the country.

    • Why does AMI sometimes use anonymous sources?

      Sooner or later, every investigative journalist meets a source who insists on remaining anonymous because he fears retribution. If the source is absolutely indispensable to the story, the reporter should ask: Does the source reasonably fear retaliation for speaking out? If so, and if anonymity is granted, AMI and the journalist must balance two competing goals: Providing enough specificity to allow the reader to understand why the source is reliable while describing the source broadly enough to ensure that he remains part of a large class of individuals and is therefore shielded from retribution. Writers and editors at AMI and elsewhere must strike a unique balance for each story. AMI uses anonymous sources when our reporters and editors find that the source is credible, is indispensable to the story and offers new evidence about an important topic. AMI uses anonymous sources because, without them, we could not accomplish our mission to uncover abuses of the public trust and educate the public.

    • Where does AMI publish its stories?

      AMI prefers to publish in major media outlets that reach a broad spectrum of the general public, not in opinion magazines, trade publications or ideological websites. Newspapers, magazines, and other news outlets in our contractual network usually have a base audience of 50,000 and have been trusted by the general public for decades.

    • Why do major news organizations publish AMI's stories?

      • Existing relationships: As either staffers or freelancers, AMI’s journalists have already published hundreds of articles for major publications, and they know the editors and decision makers.
      • Irresistible scoops: News outlets need readers and advertising dollars, and they know that high-impact stories are the best way to get both. It is in their professional and financial interest to run bona fide news stories.
      • No lock-in: News outlets are not contractually locked in to current suppliers. They are free to take quality journalism from any source.
      • Professional product: Editors readily ignore or dismiss blogs or op-eds that clearly advocate for or ridicule one side or the other. It is far harder to ignore a news article that meets professional standards of accuracy and balance, is produced by an established journalist with mainstream credibility, and offers new information about an important topic. ProPublica and others have succeeded in distributing stories to major media by adhering to these high professional standards, and AMI does the same.
      • Unique product: Given the thousands of man-hours and tens of thousands of dollars invested (LexisNexis, travel, commercial databases, archive searches and so on), it would be cost prohibitive for a news outlet to replicate AMI’s work. Our investment of time and resources makes our stories uniquely valuable.
      • No budget barrier: AMI’s stories are offered free of charge, so there is no budgetary barrier to publishing them.
    • Why is AMI a non-profit?

      The news business is crisis and cannot afford to buy investigative news stories. There is simply no money anymore. Real investigative reporting is costly. AMI’s reporters spend months traveling and interviewing sources, examining records and databases. Our cost per story is too high to be recovered with web ads and other digital revenue streams, so we rely on a wide base of generous donors who see value in what we do.

    • How can I pitch AMI?

      Please email Paul Bothwell, [email protected] We are looking for stories with a wealth of supporting evidence (documents, testimonials, emails) and the capacity to surprise and inform the public.
  • Distribution

    • Can we publish your stories?

      • We would be delighted. AMI’s goal is to educate the general public.
        • We are always looking for additional partners interested in news stories that hold the powerful accountable and challenge conventional thinking. If you’re interested, please contact Andre Johnson at [email protected] for more information.
        • If you are a wire service, newspaper, or magazine, you can republish our articles and graphics at no charge. You must credit “AMI” or “American Media Institute” alongside the byline (exactly as you credit wire service copy). If you credit wire copy at the bottom of the story, you can credit AMI the same way.
    • Is there a downside when my news organization signs a distribution agreement with AMI?

      AMI is run by media professionals who have collectively spent decades at The Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest and other major mainstream outlets. We understand and respect the “Chinese Wall” between revenue and reporting. Our writers are among the best in the business, veteran journalists who’ve spent much of their careers in major media, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Time, People and CBS News. They are independent, with hard-won reputations for fairness and accuracy.
 AMI’s independent and off-site fact-checkers and copy editors work at major regional daily newspapers or internationally respected copy-editing firms that perform similar services for dozens of U. S. and Canadian news outlets. And, yes, AMI uses fact-checkers and copy editors, a journalistic tradition that has largely disappeared in these cost-cutting times. Our board of directors and media advisory board is stacked with senior officers and editors from major media, including CBS News, Forbes, Sinclair Broadcasting and many others. In short, AMI has assembled a world-class team that would be the envy of any news organization. AMI does not endorse candidates or causes. It is not part of any church, corporation or other entity. It does not donate to or support any party or platform. AMI produces only news, never opinion.

    • How does AMI's distribution agreement work?

      • Our Distribution Agreement spells out the many questions editors and journalists ask before deciding to run an AMI story and clearly explains the process.
Are AMI investigations vetted for factual errors and subjected to a legal review?
 Yes, all AMI investigations are fact-checked by a third party specialty team, thoroughly copy edited in AP style and then turned over to our legal counsel for final review.
      • Can we edit AMI stories, talk to an author, and/or fit to size an AMI story for our publication or site?
 Yes, AMI welcomes this. Treat it like AP copy. We simply ask that both our author and American Media Institute be credited
Can our news organization add to the investigation of an AMI story?
 Yes, at your sole discretion. AMI encourages any effort to improve or update one of our investigations.
      • "Can we have home market exclusivity?
 Yes, we give our partners a 24-hour exclusivity period and North American serial rights for that period. AMI actively promotes and drives traffic to an exclusive partners' website even after the 24-hour exclusivity period expires. (AMI's average story earns more than 35 million impressions across print, radio, televison online and social media.) After the 24-hour exclusivity period expires, other print and other media may publish or present the story. The exclusivity applies only to media type (e.g. print, broadcast, online)
      • Can we turn down AMI stories?
 Yes, you have full rights to reject any and all AMI investigations.
      • Can we originate story ideas and work on them together with AMI? Absolutely. We encourage this.
      • Can we put it anywhere in our paper?
 AMI respectfully requires that our partners run AMI investigations only in the news sections of their newspapers or news sites, not in the opinion sections.
  • Donors

    • Who are AMI's supporters and how do they donate?

      AMI receives support from philanthropists and foundations across the United States. AMI’s donors share its passion for anti-establishmentarian investigative journalism. AMI does not accept funding from any government, business or union source, nor from the subjects of its stories. AMI does not accept support from lobbyists or trade associations.

      AMI posts all 990s IRS forms of all donations on our website for the purpose of full transparency.

  • Writers

    • What does an AMI writer's contract look like?

      We developed our contract for writers after analyzing contracts from The New York Times Magazine, National Geographic, Forbes, and similar outlets. If you are the kind of experienced writer we are looking for, nothing in our proposed agreement will surprise you. A copy of our standard contract may be found here and, of course, we are willing to modify the agreement to mutually benefit both parties.

    • What is your deadline?

      AMI is not a daily news outlet. We are a boutique investigative news organization that aims to produce twenty to twenty-five stories per year. We usually prefer to time the publication of our stories to important news events (a trial, an election, an historic anniversary or some other news peg). Deadlines are determined on an individual basis by a dialogue between AMI's editors and its writers.

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