Some groups step in to fill the gap in local news coverage

March 10, 2019 - 12:18 am

NEW YORK (AP) — Given the dramatic downsizing in local journalism, efforts are sprouting to match reporters with towns and topics left uncovered. Time will tell if they are the first signs of a turnaround, or fingers in the dike.

Among prominent donors for journalism projects in recent months are the Knight Foundation, Facebook and Craig Newmark, who made his fortune founding Craig's List.

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AMERICAN JOURNALISM PROJECT

This so-called "venture philanthropy" organization was founded by two people who have successfully launched online news products: John Thornton of the Texas Tribune and Elizabeth Green of "Chalkbeat." The idea is to find creative ways to raise money on the national and local levels to fund journalism. It recently announced that it had $42 million in funding commitments.

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REPORT FOR AMERICA

This organization sees itself as a Peace Corps for journalists and has begun deploying young reporters into local communities. It has sent reporters to Mississippi Today to report on criminal justice and the environment, to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to cover the state capital for The Incline and to Victoria, Texas, to write stories for the Victoria Advocate on the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. It has relationships with newsrooms across the country, including The Associated Press. Initially, the organization pays for half of a reporter's salary, with the other half split between a local news organization and local donor. One of its goals is to wean the journalist off a national funding source.

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PROPUBLICA

The online investigative journalism web site has a local journalism project, where it has connected reporters in 14 news organizations across the country with a ProPublica editor to work on various stories. Among the participating news organizations this year are the Anchorage Daily News in Alaska, the Gazette in Charleston, West Virginia, and the Louisville Courier-Journal.

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FRONTLINE

The award-winning PBS documentary series announced this past month its first foray into local news. Through a grant by the Knight Foundation, "Frontline" will hire five journalists in newsrooms across the country and an editor to oversee their work on stories about a pre-selected series of topics. The journalism they produce will be provided to local news organizations.

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KNIGHT-LENFEST NEWSROOM INITIATIVE

The journalism philanthropists Knight Foundation and the Lenfest Institute for Journalism have been teaming up to provide money for newsrooms, primarily in big cities, to hasten their transition from print to digital products.

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