Report for America announced Monday that it has selected Maryland Matters to host reporters as part of a program to expand state and local news coverage.
Report for America, or RFA, is a national service program that places talented, emerging journalists into local news organizations to report on issues and communities that receive little or no coverage.
“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 posing a threat to democracy,” the organization said in a statement.
Beginning in June 2020, two Report for America reporters will start work at Maryland Matters — joining the website’s team covering state and local government across Maryland, including the General Assembly. One reporter will cover politics, focusing on special interest influence in the State House and on the campaign trail. The other will focus on broad health care issues.
“This was a highly selective process, so being chosen is a sign that our judges were supremely impressed with the quality of your news organization, your commitment to local journalism,” said Kim Kleman, national director for RFA.
Josh Kurtz, co-founder and editor of Maryland Matters, said the two additional reporters would buttress the website’s coverage of state and local government and would help the independent, nonprofit news platform build on the credibility it has established in just 2 1/2 years of publishing.
“We’re thrilled,” Kurtz said. “We feel like this is a testament to all our hard work and illustrates how far we’ve come in such a short period of time.”
Maryland Matters is one of 164 newsrooms nationwide that will host a total of 250 reporters – or four times as many as in 2019. In Maryland, RFA will also be working with The Capital Gazette, The Baltimore Sun, WYPR 88.1 FM and Technical.ly, a Baltimore-based tech publication.
“Monday’s 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,” RFA said.
RFA’s expansion of its reporting corps came from contributions by 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 others.
Under Report for America’s funding model, RFA will pay half of each reporter’s salary; each newsroom pays the rest. The goal of the model is to expand the number of local reporting positions permanently.
“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 RFA. “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.”
Among the newsrooms selected, 47 percent are nonprofits, including digital-only newsrooms, public radio and public TV stations. Several represent “new models” in journalism with innovative approaches to community investment. Others are traditional newspapers with strong records of public service that publish both daily and weekly.
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 over-looked 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.