Flint Beat joins Report for America’s initiative to fill gaps in local news coverage

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NEW YORK — Report for America announced Monday that Flint Beat will be one of 164 newsrooms nationwide to host one of their 250 emerging journalists serving local communities across 46 states in the coming year.

Flint Beat will use a Report for America Corps Reporter to fill news gaps in Flint, Mich. and also restore the community’s narrative in partnership with local organizations and educational institutions.

“This is a major stride for our newsroom,” said Founder and Publisher, Jiquanda Johnson. “For nearly three years we have worked to not only build sustainability for our newsroom but for other independent publishers across the nation. This shows that we have maintained industry integrity and respect and we are able to compete with larger news operations.”

FlintBeat.com was founded by Johnson in 2017 in hopes of filling news gaps in Flint. The website is hyperlocal only focusing the City of Flint with coverage including city hall, solutions journalism work and the restorative narrative. In 2020, Johnson is set to launch an initiative to focus on public health in Flint and more coverage of the city’s Latino community. 

Other Michigan newsrooms include the Associated Press, Detroit Free Press, Detroit Public Television, Michigan Radio and the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

Plans for the 2020 Report for America initiative is more than four times the size of the 2019 class, who have been reporting in some 50 local news organizations across 28 states and Puerto Rico. Monday’s news marks the single biggest hiring announcement of journalists in recent memory—and comes as a direct response to the worsening crisis in local news across the country.  

“Flint is moving forward across the board as we navigate the city’s water crisis,” Johnson added. “The crisis made it urgent for us as a community to work together to take lead in various industries including journalism where our newsroom is looking to restore democracy and trust in local news.”

Report for America is a national service program that places talented, emerging journalists into local news organizations to report for one to two years on under-covered issues and communities. An initiative of The GroundTruth Project, Report for America addresses an urgent need in journalism at a time when news deserts are widening across the country, leaving communities uninformed on local issues and threatening our democracy like never before.

“We offer a pretty simple fix for news holes in communities throughout the country—local reporters on the ground, who hold leaders accountable and report on under-covered issues,” said Steven Waldman, president and co-founder of Report for America. “The editors we’ve met during our application cycle have shown us amazing passion, commitment and sharp ideas for how to better serve their local communities.” 

Here are highlights about the newsrooms, selected through a rigorous national competition: 

● Nonprofit newsrooms account for 47 percent of the total. They include digital publications and public TV and radio stations.

● More than 30 beats involve covering state legislatures. Many of those jobs are the result of a partnership between The Associated Press and Report for America, announced ​last week. 

● Almost one third of all positions call for journalists fluent in Spanish or other languages, to cover under-reported communities.

Applications are being accepted now until Jan. 31 at ​reportforamerica.org​ for the reporting slots. They will be chosen in a selective national competition, with leading journalists, editors and teachers acting as judges. Journalists and their newsroom pairings will be announced in April. Some 50 reporters in the 2019 class are expected to stay on another year. Journalists start work in their new newsrooms in June.

Last year, Report for America drew nearly 1,000 applications for 50 open positions, signaling significant interest among emerging journalists. 

Among the newsrooms, 47 percent are nonprofits, including digital-only newsrooms, public radio and public TV stations. Several represent “new models” in journalism with innovative approaches to community investment. Others are traditional newspapers with strong records of public service that publish both daily and weekly. 

The beats these journalists will cover reflect some of the biggest gaps in coverage in local news today, and some of the top priorities in society. They include stepped up reporting in remote rural areas and over-looked urban communities, and increased coverage of state legislatures and local government, as well as broader issues such as the environment, health care, education, housing, veterans’ issues and aging populations. The dramatic expansion of the corps was made possible by philanthropic leaders including the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Facebook Journalism Project, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Google News Initiative, the Ford Foundation, Heising-Simons Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, the Tow Foundation and ​many more​.

Report for America is funding these new positions with more than $5 million in direct support to newsrooms. This investment leverages a unique funding model in which RFA  pays half of a corps member’s salary, while asking its local news partners to contribute one-quarter and supporting them in getting local and regional funders to contribute the final quarter. The goal of the model is to expand the number of local reporting positions permanently.

Those who seek to help support this ambitious effort will have ​their donations tripled by NewsMatch and other challenge donors through December 31.

“RFA is about serving these communities and helping to restore the pipeline for a new generation of journalists. We understand our program may not fix all that is broken in local journalism, but we are honored to be part of a wider community directly confronting the crisis and doing everything we can to restore journalism from the ground up.” said Charles Sennott, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of GroundTruth, which launched Report for America in 2017. 

Corps members will attend Report for America’s intensive training in June, at a site to be determined, before joining their newsrooms to launch their first year of service. The 2020 newsrooms hosting corps members are on the attached list.

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