One of the basic functions of the press is to provide citizens information on which to base their vote. In thousands of communities around the country, that basic responsibility has been abdicated.
The consequences are dire. Numerous studies have shown that less news coverage leads to even lower voter turnout, a less informed electorate, fewer candidates for local office, less civic engagement, and greater polarization.
Report for America proposes to forcefully address this problem — deploying at least 10 (and as many as 50) reporters around the country to provide local coverage for crucially important local elections, including:
● State legislative races (7,383)
● Local judgeships
● City councils
● County boards
● County clerks
● School boards
● Ballot initiatives
● House of Representative races
All kinds of news organizations — nonprofit, public radio, newspapers, university-run, TV stations – can apply host Report for America corps members starting June, 2020.
News organizations will need to prove that:
- There are important local races that have been insufficiently covered and would be insufficiently covered but for Report for America help.
- They have a compelling plan for what the Report for America corps member would do after November 2020. (These would become regular Report for America slots, meaning a one year term with an option for a second term. Would the corps members continue to cover those office holders? Cover the state legislature? Switch to a new beat?)
As with all positions, Report for America would require its unique matching formula: we will cover about half the compensation (up to $20,000), and the newsroom and local donors would fund the other half. The reporters would be selected via the program’s large-scale national competition. Last year, the program had 940 applicants for 50 slots.
These Report for America corps members will be specially trained in how to cover local elections and government. During the year we would provide monthly supplemental, virtual training events with experts and provide a venue to network together the reporters so they could compare notes about emerging issues.
We are also seeking philanthropists passionate about improving the quality of elections and democracy in a time when local election coverage is scarcer and more poorly resourced than ever before. Report for America has committed to supporting a minimum of 10 positions with its existing funds, with some reporters covering multiple races. With a need this great, we aspire to go much bigger than that, and with your support, we can.