AINN originally grew out of what it described as “a four-month intensive research study conducted by a progressive not-for-profit media watchdog organization.” Though AINN did not identify that organization by name, it is widely believed to have been the George Soros– and Hillary Clinton-affiliated Media Matters, from which AINN rented office space in Washington, DC. “The research project’s objective,” AINN elaborated, “was to understand how blogs work to broaden ideological diversity in the media, and how to reinforce these positive effects.”
AINN’s founding mission was to “balanc[e]” what it viewed as “conservative dominance in traditional media,” and to “foste[r] diversity of ideas in the national debate by bringing talented and diverse voices and ideas to the fore of our nation’s discourse, through … fellowships, conferences, and research.”
Today AINN is dedicated to “investigating and disseminating news that impacts public debate and advances the common good.” The Network boasts that it has “set itself apart from other news organizations and blogs with its commitment to impact journalism—reporting that not only covers the news but also shapes it.” “This is the defining value of investigative journalism in the 21st century,” says AINN, “the recognition that outcomes matter, that reporting the news well is no longer enough.”
By AINN’s telling, impact journalism seeks to bring about “political or policy consequences” via “two primary kinds of impact,” including:
(1) Pressure, whereby “a third party publicly pressures the subject of our reporting, based on the information AINN exclusively reveals, to accept responsibility [for objectionable actions, statements, or affiliations], reform its ways, or otherwise take action”; and
(2) Results, where “a subject of our reporting takes action to address the problems revealed by our coverage.”
Often, says AINN, the objective of impact journalism is to show the public how a certain policy or piece of legislation “fails to meet, or patently contravenes, the common good.” In other cases, the objective is to “either raise serious questions about [someone’s] fitness or ability to hold a position of public trust or demonstrat[e] that they have already breached the public trust.”
_* Education_: AINN opposes the “for-profit college industry.”
_* Health Care_: AINN advocates public funding of abortions for low-income women.
_* Immigration_: AINN seeks to prevent employers from “exploiting undocumented workers.”
_* Justice/Civil Liberties_: AINN objects to conservatives who “soun[d] alarms over the ‘Islamist threat’.”
_* Labor_: AINN warns that if any budget-related measures to increase the retirement age in the U.S. are implemented, they will impose a massive “human cost” on the American people.
* National Security: AINN opposes the “increased militarization” of the U.S. border with Mexico.
* Politics: AINN charges that most Republicans are committed to “eviscerating public education, cutting unemployment benefits, and generally making life easier for [only the] richest.”* Religion: AINN denounces the “hysteria” of “right-wing activists” whose “anti-Islam” biases cause them to disrespect Sharia law, “the moral code and religious law of the Muslim faith.”* Reproductive Rights: AINN opposes calls for the defunding of Planned Parenthood.
AINN’s chief executive officer is Ari Rabin-Havt, who also serves as executive vice president of Media Matters. In 2012, Rabin-Havt and Media Matters founder David Brock co-authored The Fox Effect: How Roger Ailes Turned A Network Into A Propaganda Machine. Over the years, Rabin-Havt has been an adviser to Democratic Senators Al Gore, John Kerry, and Harry Reid. He also has worked on activist campaigns with such entities as the American Civil Liberties Union, the Democratic National Committee, and Planned Parenthood.
Other members of AINN’s board of directors include the aforementioned David Brock; David Bennahum, who served as AINN’s president and CEO from its founding in 2006 until 2011; Will Lippincott, a literary agent who sits on the boards of Media Matters, Words Without Borders, and BOMB Magazine; Marisa McNee, a communications specialist who in 2007-08 was a consultant and national communications strategist for the Campaign for Comprehensive Immigration Reform; and Scott Nielsen, who spent 13 years as a program officer at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation before founding a consulting firm that “partners with individual donors and foundations to develop and implement pragmatic social change strategies.”
A key member of AINN’s editorial team, Eli Clifton, once worked as a reporter for ThinkProgress. He also co-authored the 2011 Center for American Progress report titled Fear Inc.: The Roots Of the Islamophobia Network In America.
AINN has received funding from numerous charitable foundations, including the Arca Foundation, the Arcus Foundation, the Arkay Foundation, the Bauman Family Foundation, the Bohemian Foundation, the Boston Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Carsey Family Foundation, the Community Foundation of North Florida, the Dallas Foundation, the Denver Foundation, the Dwoskin Family Foundation, the Dyson Foundation, the Educational Foundation of America, the Foundation to Promote Open Society, the Gill Foundation, the H. van Ameringen Foundation, the Jon L. Hagler Foundation, the Loeb Family-Third Point Foundation, the Nick and Leslie Hanauer Foundation, the Mai Family Foundation, the Mark & Susan Torrance Foundation, the McKay Foundation, the Open Society Institute, the Oppenheimer Brothers Foundation, the Pacific Foundation, the Park Foundation, the Pritzker Family Foundation, the Pritzker Innovation Fund, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the Schooner Foundation, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, the Stoneman Family Foundation, the Streisand Foundation, and the Surdna Foundation.