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ProPublica Announces 50 State Initiative, Boosting Local Journalism Commitment

ProPublica announced on Wednesday a commitment to publishing accountability journalism in every state over the next five years. The 50 State Initiative expands the scope of our work at the local and regional level, which includes a growing team of journalists reporting from communities across the country and groundbreaking partnerships with local news organizations through the Local Reporting Network program.

The initiative broadens our support for local journalism, which now includes the LRN alongside dedicated reporting hubs in the Midwest, South, Southwest and Northwest, as well as an investigative unit in partnership with The Texas Tribune. ProPublica has nearly 40 journalists based around the country contributing to regional and local accountability reporting, ensuring people can benefit from world-class journalism that can drive measurable change in their communities.

The LRN launched in 2018 to boost investigative journalism by supporting and collaborating with local newsrooms, many of which have faced enormous financial strains and cutbacks. Journalists in these newsrooms want to do deep accountability projects but simply don’t often have the necessary resources.

The program pays the salary and benefits for reporters at partner news organizations so they can spend a year working on a project of importance to their communities. Additionally, ProPublica provides editing support, along with our data, research, visual storytelling, graphics, design, audience and engagement expertise.

ProPublica will accept at least 10 new projects a year through the end of 2029 (at least one from each state). Information about how to apply and the application for prospective newsrooms have just been posted.

Over the past six years, the LRN has worked with more than 70 news organizations to co-produce and publish more than 90 investigations in more than 30 states. These stories, which may otherwise have gone untold, have led to local and statewide impact and have been recognized nationally with prestigious journalism awards.

In Memphis, Tennessee, working with MLK50, an investigation led to the largest hospital system suspending lawsuits against thousands for unpaid medical debts. In Rhode Island, working with The Public’s Radio, an investigation prompted the state legislature to add money to train 911 call takers after the deaths of people when those call takers failed to provide proper guidance. An examination of sexual violence in Alaska with the Anchorage Daily News won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for public service. Two other projects have been Pulitzer finalists: our work on the illegal jailing of kids in Rutherford County, with WPLN Nashville Public Radio, and our innovative series on the harms of sugar cane burning with The Palm Beach Post.

“Our work with partners has changed laws and changed lives. We’ve worked with newsrooms from Alaska to Maine, Hawaii to Florida, to pursue projects they knew had to be told,” said Charles Ornstein, managing editor for local coverage. “But there’s so much more to be done. As local news organizations continue to do their best in these challenging times, we’re so excited to be able to partner with one in every state in the next few years.”

In addition to taking on new partners, ProPublica is also creating a dedicated newsroom team to sustain future investigative projects of current and prior partners. The new desk will provide extra editing capacity and additional resources to support projects after our initial partnership ends. There will also be a pool of funding to help with travel costs or other expenses.

ProPublica President Robin Sparkman added: “We are deeply committed to local accountability journalism — through our own dedicated reporters and editors and our LRN partnerships. We want to provide even more investigative resources to places that are profoundly under-resourced. We know that there are many funders who share this concern, and we are actively looking for additional support for this important work.”

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