Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Report for America project aims to get 1,000 more reporters at local newspapers in next five years

A new project is trying to boost the number of reporters at local newspapers that have been decimated, or worse, by layoffs. Report for America aims to put 1,000 journalists at local papers in the next five years. It's modeled on organizations such as the Peace Corps, Americorps, and Teach for America, Kristen Hare reports for the Poynter Institute.

Co-founders Charles Sennott and Steven Waldman announced the project Sept. 18 at the Google News Lab Summit. RFA is a partnership between Google News labs and the Groundtruth Project, of which Sennott is the CEO. "RFA also gets support, and its reporters will get training, from the Center for Investigative Journalism, the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, the Solutions Journalism Network and the [John S. and James L.] Knight Foundation," Hare reports.

The program will be selective, since the co-founders say the program isn't worth it unless the reporters do great work. After the reporters apply, are selected and get further training, they'll work in a newsroom for one year. For that first year, each reporter's salary will be paid 50 percent by RFA, 25 percent by the newsroom, and 25 percent by local donors. After the year is up, the paper may choose to rehire the reporter and assume more or all of the cost of his or her salary. The program will also require the reporters to do other community service, such as helping a high-school newspaper.

Waldman says "Digital start-ups, public radio stations, newspapers, TV stations and journalism schools are all possible partners. But they have to make the case that they'll use the RFA journalist for civically important local journalism that's in the public's interest, not just clickbait."

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