Capitol News Illinois to add two reporters with Report for America grant



New staff to joins Statehouse reporting team in June

SPRINGFIELD – Capitol News Illinois is being awarded a grant by Report for America that will help the Illinois Press Foundation’s state government reporting news service to increase its presence at the Capitol in 2020.

The grant will help pay for two additional reporters – one who will report on how state government and legislation impacts ethnic, minority, distressed and rural communities; and one who will provide video coverage of state issues and legislative sessions.

“We’re thrilled to be a part of Report for America’s effort to put reporters on the ground where there are gaps in coverage throughout the country,” Capitol News Illinois Bureau Chief Jeff Rogers said. “As the audience reach of Capitol News Illinois has shown during its first year of operation, there is a real need for more coverage of the Illinois Statehouse. We’re grateful Report for America has recognized that need by committing to adding two full-time reporters to the Capitol News Illinois news team.”

Report for America will fund a portion of the pay for the reporters, who will begin work in the Capitol News Illinois newsroom at the Statehouse in June 2020. The positions are partially funded by Report for America for at least one year.

Report for America is a national service program that places talented, emerging journalists into local news organizations to report for one to two years on under-covered issues and communities. An initiative of The GroundTruth Project, 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 threatening our democracy like never before.

“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 Report for America. “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.”

Here are highlights about the newsrooms, selected through a rigorous national competition:

  • Nonprofit newsrooms like Capitol News Illinois account for 47 percent of the total. They include digital publications and public TV and radio stations.
  • More than 30 beats involve covering state legislatures. Many of those jobs are the result of a partnership between The Associated Press and Report for America, announced last week.
  • Almost one-third of all positions call for journalists fluent in Spanish or other languages, to cover under-reported communities.

Applications are being accepted now until Jan. 31 at for the reporting slots. They will be chosen in a selective national competition, with leading journalists, editors and teachers acting as judges. Journalists and their newsroom pairings will be announced in April.

Last year, Report for America drew nearly 1,000 applications for 50 open positions, signaling significant interest among emerging journalists.

Among the newsrooms, 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.

The dramatic expansion of the corps was made possible by philanthropic leaders including 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 many more.