Report for America to place a record 250 journalists in 164 local newsrooms in 2020


NEW YORK—Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative, announced today that it will field 250 emerging journalists in 164 host news organizations to serve local communities across 46 states in the coming year.

This is more than four times the size of the 2019 class, who have been reporting in some 50 local news organizations across 28 states and Puerto Rico. Today’s news marks the single biggest hiring announcement of journalists in recent memory—and comes as a direct response to the worsening crisis in local news across the country.

Report for America is a national service program that places talented, emerging journalists into local news organizations to report for one to two years on under-covered issues and communities. An initiative of The GroundTruth Project, Report for America addresses an urgent need in journalism at a time when news deserts are widening across the country, leaving communities uninformed on local issues and threatening our democracy like never before.

Here are the highlights of the 2020-2021 host newsrooms:

  • The winners include 69 daily newspapers, 39 digital-only sites, 39 public radio stations, 12 local TV stations, and 5 non-daily papers.
  • Nonprofit newsrooms account for 47 percent of the total.
  • More than 30 beats involve covering state legislatures, about half as a result of a partnership between The Associated Press and Report for America, announced last week.
  • Other beats address a variety of “news deserts” — including overlooked rural areas and urban communities, local government, and broader issues such as veterans issues, aging populations, education, the environment, health care, military bases, and housing.
  • Almost one third of all positions call for journalists fluent in Spanish or other languages, to cover under-reported communities.
  • 12 positions are for photographers or videographers.

Newsrooms were selected through a rigorous national competition. Each application was evaluated at least 4 times by some 50 judges—industry leaders including former editors and reporters, journalism professors, and more.

Several represent “new models” in journalism with innovative approaches to community investment — for instance, a unique partnership between a public radio station, a local library and Wikipedia. Others are traditional newspapers with strong records of public service that publish daily or weekly.

Applications are being accepted now until Jan. 31 for the reporting slots. They will be chosen in a selective national competition. Journalists and their newsroom pairings will be announced in April. Some 50 reporters in the 2019 class will be staying on another year. Journalists start work in their new newsrooms in June.

Last year, Report for America drew nearly 1,000 applications for 50 open positions, signaling significant interest among emerging journalists.

The dramatic expansion of the corps was made possible by leadership support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Facebook Journalism Project, the Joyce Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Google News Initiative, the Ford Foundation, Heising-Simons Foundation, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, the Tow Foundation and many more.

“Report for America is strengthening local journalism by placing talented journalists in communities and statehouse bureaus that are in need of rigorous reporting,” said Jennifer Preston, Knight Foundation vice president for journalism. “The expansion of the journalist corps is essential to inform and engage residents at the state and local level and sustain quality journalism to build a healthy democracy.”

Report for America is funding these new positions with more than $5 million in direct support to newsrooms. This investment leverages a unique funding model in which RFA  pays half of a corps member’s salary, while asking its local news partners to contribute one-quarter and supporting them in getting local and regional funders to contribute the final quarter. The goal of the model is to expand the number of local reporting positions permanently.

Those who seek to help support this ambitious national effort will have their donations tripled by NewsMatch and other GroundTruth challenge donors through December 31.

“We offer a pretty simple fix for news holes in communities throughout the country—local reporters on the ground, who hold leaders accountable and report on under-covered issues,” said Steven Waldman, president and co-founder of Report for America. “The editors we’ve met during our application cycle have shown us amazing passion, commitment and sharp ideas for how to better serve their local communities.”

“Report for America is about serving these communities and helping to restore the pipeline for a new generation of journalists. We understand our program may not fix all that is broken in local journalism, but we are honored to be part of a wider community directly confronting the crisis and doing everything we can to restore journalism from the ground up,” said Charles Sennott, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of GroundTruth, which launched Report for America in 2017.

Corps members will attend Report for America’s intensive training in June, at a site to be determined, before joining their newsrooms to launch their first year of service. The 2020 newsrooms hosting corps members are found here.