The Riverdale Press is one of more than 60 news organizations across the country that was invited Tuesday to partner with Report for America, a national service program that will place more than 300 journalists into publications like The Press in the coming year.
Launched in 2017 by The GroundTruth Project — an award-winning nonprofit media organization that supports and trains teams of emerging journalists around the world — the donor-financed Report for America works to create a new, sustainable journalistic model that provides news consumers with the information they need to improve their communities, hold powerful institutions accountable, and rebuild trust in media.
Of the new class of newsroom partners for 2021, The Press is one of just four selected from New York. Others include digital media outlet Documented that covers immigration issues in the city; one of the country’s oldest African American newspapers, New York Amsterdam News; and WSKG Public Telecommunications Council, which operates a PBS-affiliated television station and two NPR-affiliated radio stations based in Binghamton.
Selections were made mostly on the basis of which newsrooms defined the most compelling gaps in coverage, and plans to deploy corps members as well. More than a third of the beats — including the one The Press will focus on — will cover communities of color, reflecting a surge in demand from newsrooms to address previously neglected beats.
“With the local newsroom shrinking, it’s important that we both put more and more reporters in the field — and that we help newsrooms that are working toward becoming more sustainable and more grounded in the community,” said Steve Waldman, president and co-founder of Report for America, in a release. “It’s particularly gratifying that newsrooms have, en masse, decided that they want to do better coverage of communities of color.”
Report for America is a two-year program (with an option for three) that pays up to half of an additional reporter’s salary, provides ongoing training and mentorship, and maintains peer networking. Applications for reporters who will end up in newsrooms like The Press opened up this week, and will continued to be accepted until the end of January.
Last year, more than 1,800 applications were received across the country, which the small group of journalists was chosen from. Those selected from this current push would begin work in newsrooms across the country in June.
Report for America prioritizes creating a diverse corps, organizers said, working with a number of professional organizations and college journalism programs to help ensure newsrooms reflect the audiences they serve. The reporters selected for the program will not only work exclusively for the newsroom they are assigned to, but will also take on a service project in the community — often including introducing middle or high school students into journalism-related activities.
“The Riverdale Press has always been an independent voice for the Bronx, checking and balancing government at every level, and always ensuring the stories that need to be told in our community are indeed reported on,” said Stuart Richner, publisher of The Press. “Adding a journalist to the newsroom team led by our editor, Michael Hinman, will require the deepest partnership between the paper and community yet. But we know the result will be a deep dive into New York City’s housing crisis at a level and concentration that has yet to be embarked by a community newspaper. And The Press is clearly the outlet that can — and will — lead the way.”
While the program is geared toward emerging journalists, Report for America also is piloting a small “experienced corps” for 2021, with positions available for mid- to late-career journalists with at least eight years of experience.
Report for America has an overall goal of placing 1,000 journalists into local newsrooms by 2024. It’s supported by a number of philanthropic groups that include the Facebook Journalism Project, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the John S. and James L Knight Foundation.
“There is a growing awareness that the crisis in local journalism has everything to do with the crisis in our democracy,” said Charles Sennott, GroundTruth chief executive officer and co-founder of Report for America, in a release. “But we believe trusted, local journalism breaks down barriers and brings people together. Supporting local news through Report for America is part of the way forward, a way to restore civic engagement and respectful dialogue across the divides in our country.”
More information about the program, including how journalists can apply to be part of the program, is available at ReportForAmerica.org.