Friday, September 10, 2021

Institute for Nonprofit News consortium aims to cover all of rural America with Daily Yonder, Investigate Midwest hubs

Thoreson, left, and McGowan
The Institute for Nonprofit News "has launched its largest, most ambitious collaborative project yet: a consortium to uncover issues confronting rural America and highlight possible solutions. More than 50 member newsrooms will help identify and investigate inequities in health, work, and environmental issues in rural America, Sarah Scire reports for Harvard University's Nieman Lab. "The consortium, which will lift off in early 2022 and last at least two years, will pay special attention to underrepresented and marginalized communities, including Indigenous ones, in those areas."

Led by INN collaborations editor Bridget Thoreson and Midwest collaborations editor Sharon McGowan, the project taps The Daily Yonder and The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting to serve as reporting hubs, Scire reports. The project came about after INN surveyed its more than 350 member newsrooms about their needs and discovering that all wanted to reach more people with their reporting and most want to do that through more collaborations with other newsrooms.

"The project leverages the reporting power of established newsrooms with the sourcing and expertise in place to strengthen regional and national coverage as well as enhance local reports," Scire reports. INN figured it had muscle to launch such a project because of its size: INN affiliates employ more than 4,000 people, including 2,500 journalists, in every state but South Carolina.

A smaller-scale INN collaboration on water issues may serve as an example of what such partnerships can accomplish:  A one-person newsroom in California's San Joaquin Valley "had a story idea and INN partnered the reporter with another investigative unit, The Center for Collaborative Investigative Journalism, to report the story out, adding context and data along the way. Eventually, the piece was co-published in The New York Times," Scire reports. "That water collaborative, called Tapped Out: Power, justice, and water in the West, involved eight newsrooms. Another, Slammed: Rural health care and Covid-19, was a partnership between four. This new rural consortium is many times bigger, which is why INN tapped two leading rural newsrooms for help steering the editorial vision."

"What we are envisioning is that this really powerful network of member newsrooms — who are embedded in these communities and understand the issues like nobody else — can surface the common issues that people there are facing," Thoreson told Scire. "And then, together, bring that power and knowledge to bear on how they can find solutions to these issues unique to rural America."

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