The stunning collapse of local news is a crisis for 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. 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.
Fortunately, a solution exists—a tested, scalable plan to address this deep crisis: a national service program for local journalism. Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, already places hundreds of reporters in local newsrooms around the country. With additional philanthropic support, we can field thousands.
Just as important, we can fundamentally transform the nature and financing of local news to ensure it’s here for generations to come. 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.
This is a pivotal moment in American history. The old local news system is withering away, with catastrophic consequences. Report for America can create permanent systems change that serves all people. We can create a movement that replaces news deserts with an oasis—a reimagined and revitalized ecosystem for local reporting that strengthens communities by strengthening journalism.
The GroundTruth Projectwebsite: https://thegroundtruthproject.org/
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The pandemic has made it clear why local news matters—not just to a community’s “information health,” but also its actual health. The quickening spread of misinformation and hollowing out of local newsrooms across America is a dangerous combination in a crisis. COVID-19 has closed over 30 local newsrooms across America; 33,000 reporters have been laid off, furloughed or had their pay cut. Report for America has enabled local newsrooms to deploy corps members to cover the COVID crisis, including angles that other journalists often miss, such as how this pandemic affects prison populations, the homeless, small business owners, immigrant farm workers, and Asian Americans who are facing racial discrimination. Report for America is getting more reporters on the ground quickly; enabling journalists to focus on COVID-19; emphasizing safety; and leading national discussions on what this moment means for local news.
Racial and Ethnic Injustice Response
Since The GroundTruth Project first launched Report for America, racial justice has been at the heart of the program's design. By definition, Report for America elevates the stories of people whose voices too often go unheard — from Black, Latinx, AAPI, and Native communities to groups like veterans, the elderly, children, immigrants, and rural communities. Report for America also believes WHO tells these stories determines which stories get told or deemed important, so diversifying newsrooms is critical to our mission. Our 2020 corps is 42% journalists of color, double the number as your average U.S. newsroom.