Report for America fights crisis in local news, brings diversity to dozens of newsrooms
By Sam Kille, Report for America
Report for America today announced the placements of some 300 journalists for its 2021 reporting corps. The cohort, which includes a number of corps members returning for a second or third year, will join the staffs of more than 200 local news organizations across 49 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam.
The corps is diverse — with 135 journalists of color — at 45%, more than double the percentage found in the majority of America’s newsrooms. By better reflecting their communities, Report for America’s partner newsrooms will be better positioned to gain the trust of their audiences, amidst the national reckoning on race.
These reporting positions come at a critical moment, when many local newsrooms are closing — leaving a vacuum of trusted, accurate information that is being filled by partisan news sites and online disinformation that threaten our democracy.
“The crisis in our democracy, disinformation and polarization, is in many ways a result of the collapse of local news,” said Steven Waldman, co-founder and president of Report for America. “We have a unique opportunity to reverse this decline by filling newsrooms with talented journalists who not only view journalism as a public service, but who can make trusted connections with the communities they serve.”
Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities. It is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, a nonprofit journalism organization.
The full list of 2021–22 corps members is attached.
The corps members will begin their new assignments in June. While a few are coming to the program out of college, the majority have several years’ experience working in newsrooms like: Audubon, City Bureau, CNN, Des Moines Register, El Nuevo Dia, FOX News, Kathmandu Post, Los Angeles Times, MSNBC, National Catholic Reporter, National Geographic, Navajo Times, New York Times, NPR, PBS NewsHour, Pittsburgh-Post Gazette, Popular Science, Pulitzer Center, and Rolling Stone.
For the first time, Report for America is piloting an “experienced corps” with 11 mid-to-late career journalists who will provide editorial support in their newsrooms.
The new corps members include a Pulitzer Prize finalist team member, two-time C.B. Blethen Memorial Award winner, and recipients of the Student Edward R. Murrow Award, Associated Collegiate Press Story of the Year, Melcher Family Award for Excellence in Journalism, Overseas Press Club Award, National Press Photographers Association Award, and multiple state press club awards.
The group also includes career-changers and reporters with myriad talents, including: a chef-turned journalist, a former coal miner, a paleontologist, a classically trained opera singer, a documentary filmmaker, Peace Corps and AmeriCorps volunteers, and several book authors.
The corps members attended a wide range of colleges and graduate schools from around the country and abroad, including: Brigham Young University, Columbia University, Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, Duke University, Fresno Pacific University, London School of Economics and Political Science, Marquette University, North Carolina Central University, Northwestern University Medill School of Journalism, Notre Dame, Ohio University, San Antonio College, Southern Methodist University, Syracuse University, Tyler Junior College, University of Alabama, University of Iowa, University of Kentucky, University of Missouri, University of Montana, University of New Mexico, University of Wyoming, Western Michigan University, and Yale University.
“Together, our emerging and experienced corps members will produce tens of thousands of articles on critically under-covered topics — schools, government, healthcare, the environment, communities of color, and more,” said Kim Kleman, senior vice president of Report for America. “The talent level they bring to their jobs can’t be beat.”
The 200-plus newsrooms are in 49 states, plus Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and for the first time, Guam. Half of the positions are in nonprofit media organizations. More than 20 newsrooms are owned or operated by journalists of color, and more than a third of the beats covered will focus on Black, Hispanic, Native American, Asian or immigrant communities.
The breakdown by media platform:
- Daily newspapers (Print and digital): 45%
- Digital only: 19%
- Radio: 18%
- News services/collaborations: 12%
- Television: 3%
- Weeklies/magazines: 3%
The newsroom list, searchable by state or beat, can be found here.
ESSENTIAL PHILANTHROPIC PARTNERS
Looking forward, Report for America will scale to 1,000 local reporters across the country by 2024, and transform the economics of local news to make these new reporting resources permanent. The program has an ambitious goal to raise $15 million by year-end to scale next year’s corps and meet the tremendous need in communities across the country.
“We know that the biggest global challenges of our time — like equitable health care, the impact of climate change, and affordable housing — will require trusted, local public service journalism if we are to come together to solve them,” said Charles Sennott, Report for America co-founder and GroundTruth CEO.
Report for America leverages a unique funding match model, paying half of a corps member’s salary, while encouraging and supporting its local news partners to contribute one-quarter, and local and regional funders to contribute the final quarter.
The model is seeing demonstrated success. In all, Report for America had a nearly $10 million philanthropic impact on U.S. local news in 2020. The total amount donated to Report for America newsrooms grew from $861,000 in 2019 to $4.6 million — a 61% increase per reporter.
For the first time in 2021, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) is collaborating with GroundTruth Project to support 10 of the full-time Report For America journalists at local public radio stations. Over the next two years, CPB will provide nearly $650,000 to fund half the reporters’ salaries in the first year and 42% in the second, with Report for America and stations paying the remainder.
“CPB and Report for America are both committed to strengthening local journalism. By working together, we will increase journalism capacity at 10 public radio stations that are essential sources of local news in their communities,” said Pat Harrison, CPB president and CEO.
Additional leading, current supporters include: The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; Facebook Journalism Project; Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; Natasha and Dirk Ziff; The Joyce Foundation; Lumina Foundation; Jonathan Logan Family Foundation; Craig Newmark Philanthropies; Chan Zuckerberg Initiative; Heising-Simons Foundation; Tow Foundation; Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation; Henry L. Kimelman Foundation; the Wunderkinder Foundation; the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; Evelyn Y. Davis Foundation; Jesse and Betsy Fink; Leon Levy Foundation; Inasmuch Foundation; Select Equity Group Foundation; Annie E. Casey Foundation; Val A. Browning Charitable Foundation; Newman’s Own Foundation; Further Forward Foundation; and McClatchy Foundation.
To learn more about Report for America and its efforts to strengthen communities through public service journalism, please visit www.reportforamerica.org.
About Report for America
Report for America is a national service program that places talented emerging journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered topics and communities. Launched in 2017, Report for America is creating a new, sustainable system that provides Americans with the information they need to improve their communities, hold powerful institutions accountable, and rebuild trust in the media. Report for America is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, an award-winning nonprofit journalism organization with an established track record of training and supporting teams of emerging journalists around the world, including the recent launch of Report for the World in partnership with local newsrooms in India and Nigeria.