What news organizations are eligible?
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.
What news organizations are eligible?
What are the criteria for selection?
These are the main criteria:
1) Is there an important need? (Are there under-covered topics, communities or geographic areas?)
2) What is the beat you’ll create to deploy RFA corps members to help fill your news gap?
3) Can you provide the local match? (see below)
Other factors include having the following:
- A culture or history of mentoring, or a plan to do it well now
- A way to distribute the content for maximum impact
- A good plan for assessing success
- A commitment to trust-building behaviors (transparency of process, transparency of article types)
What are the deadlines?
The application window for news organization closes Sept. 30, 2019. Decisions will be announced in December.
Accepted newsrooms will interview corps member candidates in March. Their selected corps member will begin in their newsroom in June. Newsrooms will work with RFA to establish a plan for measuring impact and strategy for raising local money prior to the reporter beginning.
How much money does RFA put in? How much does the host organization put in?
RFA puts in half the salary (up to $20,000) for an entry-level position. 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 $40,000 salary, RFA would put in $20,000, the news organization would put in $10,000 and local donors would put in $10,000.
What’s the salary?
It’s whatever the newsroom normally offers for an entry-level salary. We’ve seen a range from $28,000 to $47,000, depending on location and cost of living. Sometimes, if the RFA corps member is particularly experienced, the news organization can go higher, though the RFA contribution is capped at $20,000.
What do you mean by “local share”?
This term refers to the money you raise in the community to support this reporting 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 its through membership, subscriptions, events or philanthropy. So we strongly encourage news organizations to involve the community to support the RFA corps member.
Do I need the local share up front?
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.
Does Report for America help with raising the local money?
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.
Can a local funder pay the local share and the newsroom’s portion?
If that scenario is a possibility in your community, we’re happy to talk to you about it.
What say does the news organization have in choosing the corps members who will join their staff?
RFA will screen the large pool of talented applicants and choose at least three well qualified candidates to present to the local news organization. You make the final selection.
Can we have more than one RFA member?
Yes, absolutely. You just have to make the case that you’ll use the RFA corps member well and that you can provide the financial match.
As a way of providing insulation, the donation will go to Report for America rather than directly to the news organization. Also, we have strict editorial standards and will be clear up front with donors that they do not get to influence the reporter or the journalism. Finally, the reporter will be abiding by the standards of the local news organization.
No. We have placed a great photographer and TV reporter, and numerous talented 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. Or it might be someone to help the I-team with a project.
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 the local news organization.
Yes. If both the corps member and the news organization request that there be a second year, we’ll make it a two-year term. However, in the second year, the match changes: RFA contributes one third and the news organization and local funders put in two thirds.
No, they’re not. We’re quite aware that advocacy journalism organizations can do great work but for now, we’re sticking with straight up, objective, nitty-gritty reporting.
A serious, important gap in coverage. This can mean a topic or beat that has gone under-covered, or a community of people, or a geographic area.
The service project is primarily the responsibility of the corps member but we hope news organizations can help out.
We don’t have a cookie-cutter set of metrics. Instead, we ask the host news organization to propose what metrics they will use to assess the success of the corps member — and then measure whether they’ve hit those targets. Typically, the news organization will need to establish some sort of before-and-after approach that can help demonstrate impact.
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. The reporters will first attend an intensive training bootcamp. We will also offer ongoing training through the year.
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 really want that to almost never happen. But if it does, we’ll offer you the opportunity to host another carefully vetted reporter.
Where does the funding come from?
Report for America is funded by a variety of 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. The Report for America model also provides an extra level of insulation between funder and journalist. The financial support comes to Report for America, but the local editor decides the assignments for the reporter.