FAQ for Newsrooms

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Any news organization that is committed to providing objective, civically important local journalism. That could include public radio stations, newspapers, digital narrative sites, commercial TV stations, community media centers, or journalism schools providing direct journalism. The organization can be non-profit or commercial.

These are the main criteria:

  • Is there an important need? (Are there under-covered topics, communities or geographic areas?)
  • What is the beat you’ll create to deploy RFA corps members to help fill your news gap?
  • Do you provide good editing and mentoring?
  • Can you provide the local match (the part of the corps member’s salary that Report for America doesn’t pay)? 
 

The application window opens for newsrooms on Monday, July 12, 2021. The deadline is Thursday, September 30. RFA reviewers will assess applications through October and schedule newsroom interviews via Zoom in October and November. We’ll announce winning newsrooms in early December. We’ll then run a competition for corps members. Host newsrooms will select among a slate of candidates we choose, and they’ll start June 1, 2022.

 

It’s whatever the newsroom normally offers journalists of comparable experience. We’ve seen a range from $32,000 to over $60,000, depending on location, cost of living and experience level. RFA pays 50% of the salary the first year, with a cap of $25,000 for emerging reporters (less than 8 years’ experience) and $30,000 for experienced reporters (those with 8 or more years’ experience.) We pay 33% of the salary the second year, and 20% the third year, with no cap.

No. We pay only a portion of the corps member’s base salary. 

The first year, RFA pays half the salary (up to $25,000 for emerging reporters and up to $30,000 for reporters with 8 or more years of experience). The news organization is responsible for covering the rest but we strongly encourage that you raise half of that from local donors. (And we’re happy to help with that). For instance, for a $45,000 salary, RFA would put in $22,500, the news organization would put in $11,250 and local donors would put in $11,250.

The second year, RFA pays 33% of the corps member’s salary and the third year, RFA pays 20%, with no cap either year.

This term refers to the money you raise in the community to support this reporting or photography position. One of the goals of this program is to encourage local philanthropy to support journalism in a bigger way. We also believe that successful news organizations will have to build stronger community support in general whether it’s through membership, subscriptions, events or philanthropy. So we strongly encourage news organizations to involve the community to support the RFA corps member.

No.  You do need to have a solid plan for how you’re going to raise the money, and a firm commitment to doing it.

Yes, we’re happy to help.  In the past, we have pitched local foundations on behalf of news organizations, helped with crowd-funding campaigns to encourage community support and in general done whatever is needed to help the news organization.

If that scenario is a possibility in your community, we’re happy to talk to you about it.

RFA will screen the large pool of talented applicants and choose three to five well qualified candidates to present to the local news organization. You make the final selection.

Yes, absolutely. You just have to make the case that you’ll use the RFA corps members well and that you can provide the financial match.

Corps members range from right out of college/grad school, to five to seven years of journalistic experience. The average age of current corps members is 27. We try hard to match the news organization and the beat with a corps member whose experience and skills will allow them to succeed from Day One.

In 2021, we launched an “experienced corps.” Some newsrooms with big ambitions but relatively few staffers have told us they’d like to be able to hire journalists with 8 or more years’ experience, who can dive in on meaty accountability stories from the get-go. We’ll pay half their salary up to $30,000 their first year (with the same funding formula as above for subsequent years). If you’re interested in this option, let us know on your newsroom application.

 

We are clear with the donors who support Report for America as a national organization that their support will not affect coverage. And beyond that firewall, there’s a practical safeguard: the reporters are employees of the newsrooms, not Report for America. Editorial decisions are made by local editors, two steps removed from donors. As for donors to the local newsroom, we ask our partners to approach that in the same spirit that newspapers (mostly) did with advertisers: making it clear that the support doesn’t buy coverage. Our newsroom partners embrace that same ethos that we do.  

No. We have placed talented photographers and TV and radio reporters in local newsrooms. But all of them have to write well and clearly.
 

No. You know your community far better than we do. We leave it to the host organizations to decide what is most needed in the community. So that could be a general assignment reporter in a particular county or neighborhood that’s been neglected. Or it might be a beat reporter on a particular topic. 

They are employees of the local news organization. They get your benefits, operate under your standards, under your libel insurance policy, and are edited and managed by you.

Yes. If the corps member and the news organization both want to re-up for a second year, that’s great. (The second year, RFA contributes one third of the salary. There’s no cap.) And now, we’re offering a third year for interested newsrooms and corps members. (We’ll pay 20 percent of the salary, no cap.) 

No, they’re not. We’re aware that advocacy journalism organizations can do great work. But our goal is to promote straight up, nitty-gritty local reporting.

No, you don’t have to organize anything. The service project is the responsibility of corps members, who will spent up to 3 hours a week of their own time on it. We do ask that you allow some flexibility in their work schedule to accommodate the project. 

No, but we do want the RFA corps members to have impact. So preference will be given to organizations that show they have reach and impact. An exception might be if the organization is small but has high penetration in its community.
 

As an employee, the reporter would be covered exclusively by the libel insurance of the local news organization.

Great training and mentoring is a hugely important part of our mission. Corps members receive intensive training to prepare them for the year ahead by world-class editors, technologists, academics and other supporters of the future of journalism, plus continued support and mentoring throughout their term of service. 

Yes. If the corps member is performing poorly, you can terminate them for cause (though we ask for a heads up about both emerging problems and your decision). The news organization will have to pay back the unspent part of the subsidy we have provided.

First we’d apologize, and try to figure out what went wrong. We never want that to happen. But if it does, we’ll offer you the opportunity to host another carefully vetted reporter.

Report for America is funded by foundations and individuals. There are no partisan or ideological strings attached. All organizations or individuals that fund Report for America understand that we support non-partisan, non-ideological local reporting. Local funders also need to abide by the same guidelines. Of course, funders have various reasons for wanting to support journalism but they all are committing to our guidelines, which state that the donations will not affect coverage.