PITTSFIELD — The Berkshire Eagle is one of 164 newsrooms nationwide that will host a Report for America journalist, starting in June 2020.
Report for America is a national service program that places talented, emerging journalists into local news organizations to report for one to two years on under-covered issues and communities. An initiative of The GroundTruth Project, Report for America addresses an urgent need in journalism at a time when news deserts are widening across the country, leaving communities uninformed on local issues and threatening our democracy like never before.
"We offer a pretty simple fix for news holes in communities throughout the country — local reporters on the ground, who hold leaders accountable and report on under-covered issues," said Steven Waldman, president and co-founder of Report for America. "The editors we've met during our application cycle have shown us amazing passion, commitment and sharp ideas for how to better serve their local communities."
Eagle Executive Editor Kevin Moran said the newsroom will hire a journalist to cover the Berkshires' unique challenges through the prism of state government and legislative public policy.
Of Massachusetts' 14 counties, Berkshire ranks last in population growth rate, minus 3.79 percent, since 2010. Two other counties have negative growth, but not as severe, and 11 of Massachusetts counties have grown anywhere from 1.28 to 11.44 percent.
"Our reporter will be on a mission to report on why Massachusetts is leaving Berkshire County behind, and what can be done to reverse course," Moran said. "We want Berkshire County not just to be surviving; we want it to be thriving. That's where we'll point our Report for America journalist to report."
The reporter will be based in the Berkshires and report from Boston as needed.
Overall, Report for America announced it will field 250 emerging journalists in 164 host news organizations to serve local communities across 46 states in 2020.
This is more than four times the size of the 2019 class, who have been reporting in some 50 local news organizations across 28 states and Puerto Rico. The news marks the single biggest hiring announcement of journalists in recent memory — and comes as a direct response to the worsening crisis in local news across the country.
The newsrooms are selected to host Report for America journalists through a rigorous national competition.
Applications are being accepted now until Jan. 31 for the reporting slots.
APPLY NOW TO BE A REPORT FOR AMERICA JOURNALIST:https://www.reportforamerica.org/application/
Journalists will be chosen in a selective national competition, with leading journalists, editors and teachers acting as judges. Journalists and their newsroom pairings will be announced in April.
The beats these journalists will cover reflect some of the biggest gaps in coverage in local news today, and some of the top priorities in society. They include stepped up reporting in remote rural areas and overlooked urban communities, and increased coverage of state legislatures and local government, as well as broader issues such as the environment, health care, education, housing, veterans' issues and aging populations.
The dramatic expansion of the corps was made possible by philanthropic leaders including the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Facebook Journalism Project, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Google News Initiative, the Ford Foundation, Heising-Simons Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, the Tow Foundation and many more.
Report for America is funding these new positions with more than $5 million in direct support to newsrooms. This investment leverages a unique funding model in which RFA pays half of a corps member's salary, while asking its local news partners to contribute one-quarter and supporting them in getting local and regional funders to contribute the final quarter. The goal of the model is to expand the number of local reporting positions permanently.
Those who seek to help support this ambitious effort will have their donations tripled by NewsMatch and other challenge donors through Dec. 31.
"RFA is about serving these communities and helping to restore the pipeline for a new generation of journalists," said Charles Sennott, CEO and editor-in-chief of GroundTruth, which launched Report for America in 2017. "We understand our program may not fix all that is broken in local journalism, but we are honored to be part of a wider community directly confronting the crisis and doing everything we can to restore journalism from the ground up."
Corps members will attend Report for America's intensive training in June before joining their newsrooms to launch their first year of service.
Follow Report for America on Twitter at @report4america.