CJR’s most recent print edition focused on local news, the backbone of an industry suffering from the steady shift of advertising dollars away from print, leaving newsrooms in crisis—bleeding staff, scaling back coverage, and grasping for solutions. A project announced yesterday at the Google News Lab Summit hopes to help address those concerns.
Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruthProject, Google, and others, plans to place 1,000 journalists in local newsrooms over the next five years. Writing in CJR, the project’s co-founders argue that America needs “a dramatically new approach at the local level—grounded less in the traditional commercial model and more on a reawakened spirit of public service among reporters.”
Steven Waldman and Charles M. Sennott say that they want to model their initiative on organizations like the Peace Corps and Teach for America, providing opportunities and support to emerging journalists while also helping newsrooms around the country do civically important reporting. Waldman first pitched the idea in the pages of CJR more than two years ago, calling for a new national service program dedicated to journalism.
Funding for the journalists who are chosen to participate in the project will come from a combination of Report for America’s coffers, local donors, and the newsrooms themselves. As the program begins placing reporters, it will be important to ensure that the journalists chosen represent a diverse cohort, both racially and socioeconomically, that underserved areas which may not have an active local donor base are not overlooked, and that young journalists who participate receive not just initial training but support throughout their employment. Sustainability will also be key; one of the chief criticisms of Teach for America is that too many of its teachers don’t stick around in their placement schools, creating disruption and wasting resources.
Report for America won’t save journalism, just as Teach For America can’t save teaching, and the Peace Corps hasn’t brought about an era of global unity. But in a time of crisis for local newsrooms, it’s a bold attempt to reinvigorate a vital organ of American society. Below, more on Report for America and the issues it is attempting to address.
- Nuts and bolts: Poynter’s Kristen Hare has a nice overview of how the program will work.
- A difficult environment: Waldman and Sennott cite the fact that the number of newspaper jobs has dropped by almost half since 1990. Trust in “the media” may be at an all-time low, but Americans still believe in their local news.
- An area of opportunity: A report from the Google News Lab finds US newsrooms trailing their European counterparts in the employment of data journalists. Just 46 percent of American outlets have at least one journalist dedicated to data storytelling.
Other notable stories
- For CJR, Philip Eil looks at the lesson journalists should take away from Sean Spicer’s attempt at rebranding. For his part, Spicer told the Times’s Glenn Thrush that he regrets berating reporters over inauguration crowd sizes on his first day on the job.
- Reporting that gets results: A month after The New York Times’s Ellen Barry uncovered the circumstances behind a murder in small-town India, officials have brought charges against the man she identified as killing his wife.
- Tinder as reporting tool? Kevin McElwee makes the case for using the dating app for connecting with sources in an interesting piece for CJR.
- Vanity Fair’s Joe Pompeo reports that Thomas Frank, the veteran reporter forced to resign after CNN retracted an article about Anthony Scaramucci’s alleged ties to Russia, is headed to BuzzFeed News.
- The primetime shakeup at Fox News is official, with Sean Hannity moving to 9 pm and Laura Ingraham taking over at 10. Meanwhile, the conservative cable giant was hit with another lawsuit, as political commentator Scottie Nell Hughes alleges that she was raped by the longtime anchor Charles Payne. Fox called the suit a “publicity stunt.”