As new journalists join Report for America, a call for more diverse local news

It’s one of the greatest days of the year for us when we deploy new Report for America reporters out into their host newsrooms to serve local communities.

This week, 60 new Report for America corps members began their onboarding and orientation in new positions in newsrooms  in every corner of the country, joining the ranks of the more than 600 reporters who we’ve placed in more than 300 newsrooms since GroundTruth launched the program in the fall of 2017.

And as the new cohort starts its journey, it is time for us to also renew our call for more newsrooms to join the movement.  Applications are now open for newsrooms to work with us to support more reporters in their newsrooms and to rebuild local news by hosting Report for America journalists for up to three years, beginning next summer.

So if you live in a big city or a small town where there are under-covered issues and overlooked communities and if you see a need for stronger local reporting on important issues like the environment, criminal justice, and health please encourage your local news organization to reach out to us.

While we are open to all applications, we are continuing to push forward on our commitment to serving communities of color by hiring more local reporters who reflect the community they cover. Right now there are 107 reporters of color among our current list of more than 250 reporters out in the field. But we believe we need to go further to address long-standing inequities in local media by including and supporting diverse journalists and audiences that are all too-often overlooked.

Earl Johnson, vice president of recruitment and alumni engagement at Report for America, put it well, saying, “We understand the challenges today’s newsrooms face, not only finding talented journalists but also providing the mentorship and support they might seek. By partnering with Report for America, local newsrooms are better positioned to cover important issues, diversify their newsrooms, and grow sustainable, local support within their communities.”

That mentorship role that Earl referenced will be a key to the success of these reporters and will help them serve their respective communities.

Report for America Program Associate Marcie Hampton, who came to us following five years of service with the American Civil Liberties Union, has been helping us to deepen our mentorship program, which brings together top journalists from around the country who give their time to support our reporters in the field.

As Hampton points out, “Our corps members have been matched with experienced journalists in an array of fields, and are working on connecting with their mentors and building those relationships as we move into the new corps member year. The corps members and their mentors meet via Zoom quarterly, and this year we implemented a monthly check-in via text/email to ensure the corps members are feeling supported.”

Previous corps members have shared with Hampton that their mentors are, as one put it, “a cherished, encouraging presence in my life.” Another said the mentors “express care about my well-being in the newsroom and in general as a young professional in the journalism field.”

The mentors are a diverse group in many ways, but they are bound together by a belief in our mission and are working hard to support and build the future of local journalism. So if you know a journalist who might have the time to help the next generation, or if you fit that bill yourself, please reach out.

It is exciting to see this movement get traction, but it is also an urgent time to address the crisis in local journalism which, if you’ve been following this newsletter, you know is directly connected to the crisis in our democracy.

The application deadline for new newsrooms is Sept. 18, 2023, and the selected newsrooms will be publicly announced in December. More information about how the program works can be found here.