Report for America corps members, family, friends and staff came together virtually last night to celebrate the graduation of nearly 100 journalists from the national service program, ahead of this year’s Local News Awards.
The new graduates have all completed at least one year of service with Report America with several having two to three years in the reporting corps under their belts. The majority intend to stay in local news and some will remain in their current newsrooms.
Dorothy Tucker, president of the National Association of Black Journalists and an award-winning investigative reporter at CBS2 Chicago, delivered the commencement address. She shared the successes and challenges that have come with her decades of journalism experience and reminded the corps members that their work is vital—and more importantly that they matter.
“You have stories to tell in your voices from your own perspective, from your own experiences. And that’s why you deserve a place at the table,” Tucker said. “Throughout American history, journalists working in local media have pushed their communities to understand and act upon the issues that plague them from criminal environmental justice to corruption in town halls, school boards, and state legislators, from gun control to stories surrounding mental health. Local reporters are telling critical stories that might not otherwise be covered.”
A Chicago native and graduate of Northwestern University, Tucker joined CBS2 Chicago from KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh, where she worked as a general assignment reporter and talk show host. Previously, Tucker worked at KWGN-TV in Denver, as a general assignment reporter, and as a reporter and weekend anchor at WREG-TV in Memphis. Tucker began her broadcasting career in Peoria at WMBD-TV.
Tucker has been honored numerous times throughout her career. In 2021, she won two regional Edward R. Murrow awards and was part of the news team that won a national Murrow for overall excellence. Tucker is also the recipient of the 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Chicago Association of Journalists.
Despite her achievements, she shared that more needs to be done to help emerging journalists as they pursue their careers and applauded Report for America’s efforts.
“When I became familiar with Report for America, I was already over four decades into my local news career. In fact, when I was the age of many of you, I had already been fired from my first job. How I wish there was a Report for America back then, a place where I could be guided, where my craft could be nurtured, where I could gain the confidence I needed to become a good, solid reporter,” Tucker said.
The role local journalism plays was echoed throughout the ceremony. Report for America’s executive director, Kim Kleman, praised the graduates for the lasting impact their stories will have, numbering in the thousands.
“They are the heart of our organization and they are our most impressive ambassadors. They are in communities in every state of the nation and in Guam and Puerto Rico, providing communities with local news, so residents know big things going on in their towns … and help them get to know their neighbors better,” Kleman said of the corps members.
Dozens of new and renewing corps members will take the grads’ places in newsrooms across the country this summer. Yet in her closing remarks, Kleman reminded the departing corps members that being part of Report for America is much more than just another job on their growing resumes.
“So, graduates, as you go out into the world, moving up in your careers, know that we are always here for you. We will always have your backs. As alumni, you’re still an important part of the RFA family. And like a real family, there is no getting rid of us!”
About Report for America
Report for America is a national service program that places talented emerging journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered topics and communities across the United States and its territories. By creating a new, sustainable model for journalism, Report for America provides people with the information they need to improve their communities, hold powerful institutions accountable, and restore trust in the media. Report for America is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, an award-winning nonprofit journalism organization dedicated to rebuilding journalism from the ground up.