Denise Rolark Barnes (left), publisher of The Washington Informer and chair of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, D. Kevin McNeir (center), the editor of The Washington Informer, and Rushawn Walters, a NNPA/DTU journalism fellow discuss upcoming story assignments and events at The Washington Informer office in Southeast, Washington, D.C. (Freddie Allen/AMG/NNPA)

The Washington Informer is proud to announce that it has been selected as a Report for America host newsroom for 2021, joining 64 local newsrooms that will hire 300 reporters nationwide.

An initiative of The GroundTruth Project, Report for America is a two-year program (with an option for three) that delivers a wide range of benefits to its corps members. Beyond paying up to half of the journalists’ salaries, it provides ongoing training and mentorship by leading journalists, peer networking, and memberships to select professional organizations.

“We are honored to participate in this program and proud that RFA was able to expand its reach to more diverse newsrooms and journalists throughout the country. We encourage local journalists interested in covering communities of color to apply to RFA by the Jan. 31, 2021, deadline,” said Denise Rolark Barnes, publisher of The Washington Informer.

“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.”

Rolark Barnes said the journalist to be hired by The Washington Informer will focus on health issues and health care disparities in D.C.

“COVID-19 is just another example of the disparities in health care, specifically in the African American community,” she said. “It is our hope through increased coverage that we will help to address this issue and find ways to contribute to building a healthier community.”

“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 Steve 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.”

Daily and weekly newspapers, digital-only news outlets, radio and television stations are among the newsrooms chosen. Their applications, according to Walden, defined the most compelling gaps in coverage and plans to deploy corps members to fill those gaps.

Walden said the team at RFA observed certain new patterns leading RFA to double the number of host newsrooms owned by people of color. Additionally, more locally-owned, for-profit news organizations than news organizations owned by private equity firms or hedge funds were selected. They also demonstrated a surge in demand from newsrooms to address previously neglected beats.

“There is a growing awareness that the crisis in local journalism has everything to do with the crisis in our democracy, but we believe trusted, local journalism breaks down barriers and brings people together. Supporting local news through Report for America is part of the way forward, a way to restore civic engagement and respectful dialogue across the divides in our country,” said Charles Sennott, GroundTruth chief executive officer and co-founder of Report for America. “We can’t wait to work with our newsroom partners and our reporting corps to restore journalism from the ground up.”

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, which was launched by The GroundTruth Project in the fall of 2017, looks to place 1,000 journalists into local newsrooms by 2024. It is supported in its efforts by several philanthropic leaders, including the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Facebook Journalism Project, Natasha and Dirk Ziff, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Joyce Foundation, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, the Lumina Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the Heising-Simons Foundation, the Henry L. Kimelman Foundation, the Tow Foundation, and the Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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