BOSTON — Building on the success of its first year, Report for America is launching an initiative to address the proliferation of news deserts in California with the goal of placing 10 reporters into local newsrooms in 2019 and 20 in 2020.
News deserts are spreading in the state – leaving millions of Californians without basic information and accountability reporting. Since 2004, 73 newspapers have closed in the state, according to a report released earlier this month by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
An initiative of The GroundTruth Project, Report for America currently has 13 reporters in Georgia, Mississippi, Kentucky, New Mexico, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Texas, and West Virginia. In 2019, they will place 28 reporters nationwide, with a goal of 1,000 reporters by 2023. The program pays for half of each reporter’s salary and the remainder is covered by the local newsroom and local donors.
Report for America has previously placed a regional corps in Appalachia, where corps members have driven a substantial increase in reporting on under-covered parts of Eastern Kentucky and West Virginia. This second region-specific initiative marks the beginning of a major effort to create similar geographically-focused, locally-funded reporting corps. The goal is to both address areas that have large “news deserts” and draw in new, local philanthropic support for community journalism.
The California initiative has taken off thanks to seed grants from the Annenberg Foundation and McClatchy Foundation, as well as collaboration with the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism to provide training and support. The program is continuing to raise funding to reach its 2019 goal of ten California-based reporters.
“There is a crisis in local news in California,” said Cynthia Kennard, Executive Director of the Annenberg Foundation. “This innovative program will help make a real difference. We urge other funders who care about the health of California’s communities to join the effort.”
“This infusion of young reporters will support basic accountability reporting around the state,” said Willow Bay, Dean of USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. The school will provide intensive training and support for Report for America corp members.
Report for America will accept applications from news organizations throughout the state and across the country who want to host Report for America corps members. This includes newspapers, radio stations, and television stations. To win the right to host one or more reporters, each news organization will have to demonstrate that there is a civically-important gap in coverage and that they have a strong plan to deploy new reporting resources in the public interest.
To accommodate this specific new initiative, Report for America is extending the deadline for newsroom applications to Friday, NOVEMBER 16. The deadline to apply to become a corps member for 2019 is February 1. The application and information can be found here: https://www.reportforamerica.
Report for America corps members typically have 3 to 6 years of experience, while some are accomplished recent graduates. More than half of the current corps members have returned to their home states.
“We’re grateful to the Annenberg Foundation and USC Annenberg for supporting this time-sensitive effort to plug some serious gaps in California’s new coverage,” said Steven Waldman, co-founder and president of Report for America. “In this time of declining trust in journalism, it’s important that we remember: trust is a crop that is locally grown. More reporters on the ground will help repair the rupture between local media and the residents they serve.”
The GroundTruth Project launched Report for America in January of 2017 as part of GroundTruth’s mission to support and train a new generation of journalists in the US and around the world. GroundTruth’s CEO and Editor-in-Chief and Report for America co-founder, said, “There are so many news deserts across the country, particularly in California. These extraordinary young journalists are going to help fill these gaps, and strengthen democracy in the process.”
GroundTruth’s Executive Editor, Kevin Grant, who is also the Vice President of Report for America, was in Los Angeles for the announcement at USC Annenberg, where he is an alum of the graduate school. “This is really a full circle moment. Launching our local news initiative in California and carrying out public service journalism in the city and across the state has alway been at the heart of Annenberg.”