In an effort to help stanch the decline in aggressive statehouse coverage across the country, ProPublica today announced that it is expanding its Local Reporting Network with a focus on accountability journalism on state governments or state politics.
Under a new two-year grant, ProPublica will pay the salary, plus an allowance for benefits, for reporters at seven partner news organizations who will spend one year tackling an investigative project in their states. Reporters will collaborate with a ProPublica senior editor, and ProPublica’s expertise with data, research and engagement will be made available for the work.
Applications for these new slots are due on September 14. Here are the details for those interested in applying. The new group of reporters will begin their work on Jan. 2.
ProPublica announced the creation of the Local Reporting Network last fall, and the first group of seven local newsrooms has already produced a strong body of work, exposing lapses in worker safety at nuclear facilities, failures in public housing, the devastating toll of post traumatic stress disorder on first responders, and stunning miscarriages of justice in Indiana, among others. A second group will be chosen for 2019 in an application process later this year; the new state-focused program will add seven additional projects to the network.
The number of journalists working in state capitals has steeply declined in recent years, as fewer outlets have the resources to hold accountable those in powerful state offices, from the executive and legislative branches to secretaries of state to attorneys general. An analysis by Pew Research estimated a 35 percent drop in journalists working in state capital bureaus from 2003 to 2014.
“Reporters focused on state government are critically important for holding elected officials accountable and leveling the playing field between special interests and the public,” said ProPublica President Richard Tofel. “We are delighted to expand the ProPublica Local Reporting Network to support local reporters and newsrooms who bring much needed sunlight to the dealings of state government.”
Reporters selected for the Local Reporting Network will work in and report to their home newsrooms, receiving extensive support and guidance from ProPublica. Each investigation from the ProPublica Local Reporting Network is published by both the reporter’s home newsroom and ProPublica.
ProPublica has an extensive track record in local journalism. In a collaboration with the New York Daily News in 2016, one of the News’s reporters, Sarah Ryley, worked on a project about the NYPD’s abuse of nuisance abatement laws, which had police kicking people out of their homes without due process. ProPublica helped to develop the work, edit it and dig deeper into the data. The collaborative series led to sweeping legislative reforms, and ultimately won the 2017 Pulitzer gold medal for public service.
In 2017, ProPublica launched ProPublica Illinois, a Chicago-headquartered newsroom that produces investigative journalism to expose wrongdoing across the state. One of those projects, a collaboration with the Chicago Tribune about a deeply flawed property tax assessment system, was a finalist for the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for local reporting.
Eligible newsrooms are invited to apply for the ProPublica Local Reporting Network by Sept. 14. Winning entries will be announced in October, to enable work to begin on Jan. 2. More information on the project and application process can be found here.