Knight Foundation Makes $5M Commitment to Report for America to Address Crisis in Local News, Calls on Local Funders to Join Efforts
BOSTON, MA — The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation today announced a new partnership with Report for America, an ambitious national service initiative of The GroundTruth Project which aims to place 1,000 emerging reporters in local newsrooms across the country by 2023.
The GroundTruth Project is honored to receive Knight’s generous support of $5 million over five years that will catalyze Report for America as a movement in service journalism strengthening democracy by improving the quality and quantity of local news. Report for America matches talented, diverse journalists with local newsrooms from California to North Dakota to Mississippi for a year of service, reporting on under-covered challenges such as criminal justice, climate change, health, and education.
“The crisis in American journalism has become a crisis for our democracy,” said Charles Sennott, Founder, CEO, and Editor-in-Chief of The GroundTruth Project, which launched Report for America in late 2017. “Addressing this crisis is going to require a greater role for nonprofit business models. Knight’s recognition of that idea is critical. We’re proud to be partnering with Knight to get more reporters on the ground in dramatically under-covered corners of our own country.”
The announcement is part of a broader Knight-led initiative doubling down on their commitment to bolster local news, press freedom, media literacy, and media research through a $300 million investment in journalistic training, reporting, and innovation over the next five years.
“Reliable news and information are essential for people to make democracy work,” said Jennifer Preston, Knight Foundation vice president for journalism. “By investing in projects and people with bold ideas, Knight and others who care about journalism and democracy have the opportunity to reverse years of declining trust and revenues and help build a sustainable future for local news and information in the 21st century.”
“We are proud to be partnering with the Knight Foundation in an effort to rethink journalism as public service,” said Steven Waldman, President and Co-Founder of Report for America. “And we are already beginning to see the impact that our Report for America corps members have made at the local level. Knight’s support lays a strong foundation as we look to rapidly scale our corps from 13 members in 2018 to 1,000 members over the next few years.”
Report for America recently announced that it would be placing 60 reporters into newsrooms in 2019, and received nearly 1,000 applications from across the country.
Report for America corps members are full-time employees of the news organizations they are matched with — daily newspapers, radio stations, nonprofit newsrooms, and weeklies — and receive training, mentorship, and networking opportunities. Additionally, all corps members complete a media-related service project in the local community.
Report for America leverages a three-to-one regional funding match model, paying half of a corps members’ salary, while encouraging and supporting its local news organization partners to contribute one-quarter, and local and regional funders to contribute the final quarter. This systems-based approach promotes new models for shared investment in local journalism, increasing the chances of sustainable change in supporting watchdog community reporting, for the community, by the community.
“For local journalism to survive, it will need the support of the community and tap into the talent and spirit of service from young journalists,” Waldman said. “We are so appreciative of this generous investment by the Knight Foundation, which has led the efforts to save and rejuvenate local journalism.”
This year, Report for America corps members have already had tremendous impact. Michelle Liu at Mississippi Today reported on a disturbing spike in deaths in the Mississippi prison system. Will Wright at the Lexington Herald-Leader documented persistent problems with drinking water in Kentucky. Obed Manuel, placed in the Dallas Morning News, catalogued “food swamps” — low income areas with low quality food sources.
“What I saw around me growing up in Dallas was a Hispanic community in the dark and disconnected from the City Council. Disconnected from the County Commissioners Court. Disconnected from the Texas Legislature,” said Obed Manuel “As news organizations, we must be more willing now than ever to build new relationships with communities that have long been marginalized and ignored by day-to-day news coverage…it all starts with a simple effort of talking to them.”
Report Local, Support Local. Are you a regional, state, or local donor interested in supporting public service reporting in your community? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about collaborating with Report for America and our partner news organizations.
For press inquiries, please contact Lauren McKown at lmckown@thegroundtruthproject.