'National Service Program' for Journalists to Help Local Newsrooms

'National Service Program' for Journalists to Help Local Newsrooms

, a nonprofit organization modeled after , is working to place a thousand journalists in understaffed newsrooms across the country by 2022, the reports.

Co-founded by veteran journalist Charles Sennott, who co-founded and founded the , and Steven Waldman, who co-founded the multi-faith religion website Beliefnet.com and authored the 's landmark report , the organization aims to shore up local newsrooms by making reporting part of a national service program. According to the , daily and weekly newspaper publishers employed about 455,000 people in 1990 — a number that had fallen to 173,000 by January 2016. In 2015, Waldman released a funded by the that argued for the creation of a national service program for journalists.

Supported by , the , the , the , and the , , , and foundations, Report for America offers one- to two-year fellowships, covering half a reporter's annual salary of about $40,000, while the participating news outlet and a local donor split the other half. Reporters who make the cut start with eight days of training before joining their host newsrooms and must fulfill a service requirement, such as mentoring student journalists, during their fellowships.

"People are applying for the same reason people want to go into the Peace Corps: There's an idealistic desire to help communities, and there's a sense of adventure," Waldman told the Times. "They want to try and save democracy. People keep saying that."

Three fellows — called corps members — began working in Appalachia in January, with nine more to be deployed across the country in June. Eighty-five newsrooms applied to host one of the nine reporters, describing a crucial beat that needed filling, the Times reports. In regions where newsrooms are full of empty desks, an additional reporter can have a significant impact. For example, Will Wright, a reporter placed at the through the program, helped break a major story simply by attending a community meeting in eastern Kentucky and talking to . Soon afterward, the person in charge of the water district retired, and .

"You don't need a twenty-year veteran investigative reporter to have this impact," said Waldman. "It's so barren out there that just being on the ground can have a really big impact."

Nellie Bowles. "." New York Times 04/15/2018.