Those hurdles notwithstanding, Clemetson sees ways to adapt the StateImpact model to other projects. “Rather than hire an education reporter, and someone else hires an education reporter, you can hire an education reporter together; we can share the content without duplicating resources and get coverage we can’t get covering individually anymore.”

This sort of partnership is particularly suited to public media stations, who needn’t think of themselves as competitors, she said: “It is a public media network, after all, and we’re all stronger when one of us is stronger.”

While Clemetson calls StateImpact a “clear-cut success,” there are some outcomes that she hoped for that didn’t come through well. One of them is in cultivating diversity in the public media hiring process. Clemetson said that she’d look at the pool of people applying for a position and wish there were more applicants who came from the varied communities StateImpact covers.

“Having communities that reporters report about well-represented [in public media] is a really critical part of good journalism,” Clemetson said. “It helps us to reach all of audiences we want to reach,” as well as fully understand the nuances of the stories they cover. Clemetson noted that this is something NPR as a whole is working on, in part by launching CodeSwitch—a six-person team focused on race, ethnicity, and culture in both on-air and online stories—last month.

As NPR winds down its involvement with StateImpact, “what’s left are really good investigative reporters, statehouse reporters, multimedia reporters,” said Phillips, who will leave in August for a Knight fellowship in science journalism at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology but plans to return to WHYY after her fellowship year. “That’s a great outcome of this.”

Clemetson, for her part, is delighted with the work done by the StateImpact reporters—who she calls “the next generation of public media journalists” —and happy to see them taking the lessons of the program deeper into their newsrooms, or to new roles elsewhere in journalism. “I’m so proud of our model,” Clemetson said. “On this small scale, we changed the way reporting is done.”

Correction: This post originally stated that Lynette Clemetson became NPR’s first StateImpact director in January 2012. In fact, Cathy Duchamp directed the project from January through October 2011.

The post also stated that Scott Detrow was hired away from WITF in Harrisburg by KQED in Sacramento. While Detrow is KQED’s Sacramento reporter, the station is based in San Francisco.

Follow @USProjectCJR for more posts from this author and the rest of the United States Project team.


Anna Clark is CJR's correspondent for Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. A 2011 Fulbright fellow, Clark has written for The Guardian, Grantland, and Salon; blogs at Isak; and can be found on Twitter @annaleighclark. She lives in Detroit.