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Report for America Brings Fresh Eyes to Overworked Newsrooms

At a time when the nation’s newsrooms are confronting a surge in events to be chronicled and a shortage of staff to cover them, help is on the way.

Thanks to a partnership with Report for America, The Washington Informer’s staff welcomes a new reporter to help bridge the gap between the often overwhelming flow of events and the resources to cover them.

Maya Smith, soon to receive her graduate degree in Investigative Journalism from American University, will cover health care and under-covered communities at The Informer through 2022. Smith is one of 300 journalists joining 64 news outlets throughout the nation to help address the need for coverage of under-covered areas and topics.

Report for America grew out of an initiative by a nonprofit media organization called the Ground Truth Project with an announced purpose to “harness the skills and idealism of an emerging group of journalists plus the creative spirit of local news organizations.”

For Smith, a year at The Informer marks another step in a career begun in Memphis, Tenn.

“I appreciate Report for America’s prioritizing coverage of underreported communities,” she said. “I chose The Washington Informer because of the paper’s history and its reputation of producing solid journalism.”

For The Informer, the addition of Smith provides a rare opportunity, according to Informer Publisher Denise Rolark Barnes. “We are honored to be among the Report for America newsrooms across the country to host an aspiring and talented journalist such as Maya Smith.

“We look forward to her contributions as we cover the issue of health care access and disparities in the District with a goal of improving outcomes among affected members of the community. This work would not be possible without the support of RFA and donations from our readers who support local journalism.”

“With the local news system shrinking, it’s important that we both put more and more reporters in the field—and that we help newsrooms that are working toward becoming more sustainable, and more grounded in the community,” said Steven Waldman, president and co-founder of Report for America. “It’s particularly gratifying that newsrooms have, en masse, decided that they want to do better coverage of communities of color and rural areas.”

While Report for America is geared toward emerging journalists, it is also piloting a small “experienced corps” for 2021, with positions available for mid- to late-career journalists with eight or more years’ experience.

“Report for America provides a unique opportunity for journalists to really sink their teeth into local, issue-oriented reporting that is missing from so many newsrooms today,” said Norman Parish, recruitment director, Report for America. “Beyond talented reporters and photojournalists, we are looking for individuals who see journalism as a public service and want to make a difference within their communities.”

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