The stunning collapse of local news is a crisis for our democracy. Disinformation is flooding into the vacuum created by the dramatic decline of community journalism. News deserts are spreading—and as a result, polarization is rising and communities are less able to solve their own problems. Trust is declining; division and corruption are growing.
Nearly 1,800 communities across the United States no longer have sufficient basic news coverage and thousands must turn to hollowed out newsrooms whose reporting resources have been decimated. Between 2008 and 2019 it is estimated that 27,000 reporting jobs were lost.
Without local reporters to hold individuals in power accountable, communities experience greater polarization, more pollution, lower voter turnout, less government accountability, and less trust. Residents no longer get the information they need to understand the critical issues facing their community, to make good decisions for their family, and to hold elected officials accountable.
We are at a historic inflection point: we need to decide whether we want to create a better local news system—and a better democracy—or face the consequences of losing both.
Report for America is a movement to transform communities and strengthen democracy by virtually eliminating American news deserts.
An initiative of The GroundTruth Project, Report for America is a national service program that will place 2,500 local reporters in 750+ newsrooms nationwide and fundamentally transform the nature and financing of local news to ensure that it’s here for generations to come.
The GroundTruth Project can scale Report for America to meet an urgent need: our corps members will report hundreds of thousands stories annually on crucial topics like healthcare access, school reform, racial justice, the environment, local economies, and government accountability.
But we will also create systemic change, permanently transforming the way local news is financed. For every dollar Report for America dedicates to support a reporter, the local newsroom and community must also raise a dollar. We are helping hundreds of local newsrooms draw small and large donors alike off the sidelines to support public service journalism.
Finally, Report for America is also creating a seismic shift in representation: enabling more diverse, equitable newsrooms and news coverage. More than 40 percent of corps members are journalists of color and two-thirds are women. In contrast, people of color make up 16.5 percent of newsroom employees and women make up 39 percent.
The team made the following changes to its proposal since it was first submitted in August of 2019, informed by additional research, project development, and authentic engagement with communities of interest—defined as beneficiaries, those who might suffer harm, other funders, and competitors.
- We have expanded our focus on advancing the local sustainability of our newsroom partners. Our plan includes growing a network of state offices and dedicated coaches who will work hand-in-hand with our community partners to raise $141 million from local philanthropy for local news, matching MacArthur’s support more than one-to-one.
- Based on feedback from our newsroom partners and corps members, we added an optional third-year of service for our corps members. Newsrooms shared with us that this valuable on-ramp gives them the time they need to build their fundraising capacity, and corps members shared that it gives them a longer period of time to build trust with their sources and do valuable reporting.
- We also heard a call for more experienced mid-career local reporters, who can edit, mentor emerging corps members, and conduct more in-depth investigations. We are creating this track to target another alarming trend in local newsrooms: a lack of local editors.
About Our Team
Report for America is led by a diverse and growing team of journalists, entrepreneurs, and nonprofit strategists who collectively draw upon decades of experience running newsrooms, scaling businesses, and cultivating young leaders.
Alison Bethel McKenzie, Vice President of Corps Excellence of Report for America
Anna Lin Mitchell, Chief Financial Officer of The GroundTruth Project
Charles M. Sennott, Chief Executive Officer and Editor-in-Chief of The GroundTruth Project / Co-Founder of Report for America
Kevin Grant, Chief Content Officer / Vice President of Strategy of Report for America
Kim Kleman, Senior Vice President of Report for America
Susan Leath, Chief Operating Officer of The GroundTruth Project
Steven Waldman, President and Co-Founder of Report for America
“The Missing Piece in How Foundations Can Fight Polarization”
Steven Waldman, Chronicle of Philanthropy
“Think and Look Outside the Box:’ Local Foundations, Philanthropists Boost Giving to Nonprofit, For-Profit Newsrooms”
Mark Glaser, The Knight Foundation
“All the Tools in Our Toolbox.” What’s Next in Philanthropy’s Fight Against Misinformation?"
Mike Scutari, Inside Philanthropy
“The Information Needs of Communities”
Steven Waldman, Federal Communications Commission
“The Expanding News Desert”
Penelope Muse Abernathy, University of North Carolina