ProPublica announced on Thursday that it is dramatically scaling up its commitment to local investigative journalism with the launch of three regional reporting hubs. The nonprofit news organization will establish two new units covering the South and Southwest. ProPublica Illinois, which since 2017 has published investigative journalism on key issues in Illinois, will be transformed into a unit covering a broader swath of the Midwest.
In addition to the regional reporting hubs, ProPublica is launching a Distinguished Fellows program to support proven investigative journalists. Selected fellows will embark on three-year partnerships with ProPublica, as they report from their local newsrooms.
The expansion is made possible by two significant grants from philanthropic entities, one a donor-advised fund held at the Pew Charitable Trusts. ProPublica expects to add nearly 30 new positions across the United States, including editors and reporters, news applications developers, researchers and other staff.
“The need for local accountability journalism is more acute than ever, as newspapers across the country contract and in some cases collapse,” said Charles Ornstein, ProPublica managing editor for local. “The rapid decline of local reporting is a crisis challenging democracy itself, leaving communities without information that is critical to their ability to hold powerful interests and decision-makers accountable. Through this transformative expansion of ProPublica’s local initiatives, we believe we can create a sustainable infrastructure that will meaningfully address these widening gaps.”
More specifically, this new investment into local journalism will allow for:
A seven-person reporting unit, based in Atlanta, to cover the South, including North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.
A six-person reporting unit based in Phoenix to cover the Southwest, including New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and possibly Colorado.
An additional four reporters will join the existing Chicago-based staff to create a new Midwest regional hub, with new positions covering Wisconsin, Michigan and likely Missouri.
Three-year grants to six ProPublica Distinguished Fellows, proven investigative reporters working at local news organizations, who will co-publish their reporting with ProPublica.
Additional supporting positions for these efforts in such key areas as engagement, audience, research, video, data reporting and fundraising, on both ProPublica’s news and business sides.
“The Midwest, South and Southwest are areas of the country with growing, diverse and underrepresented populations, and these regions appear frequently in ProPublica reporting on a range of issues, from health care to education to criminal justice and beyond,” said Stephen Engelberg, ProPublica editor in chief. “The regional hubs will tackle these issues, publishing stories in a manner tailored to the areas, matching local talent and knowledge with national expertise and guidance.”
The new Distinguished Fellows program is an outgrowth of the ProPublica Local Reporting Network, which funds the salary and benefits of local reporters for one year as they produce important investigative projects on topics affecting their communities. The longer-term Distinguished Fellows program will enable reporters to pursue a broad range of accountability reporting projects while deepening ProPublica’s relationship with the partner newsrooms and their communities. ProPublica expects to select its first class of six fellows largely if not entirely from the ranks of former participants in the Local Reporting Network.
ProPublica’s local initiatives have grown each year since 2017, starting with ProPublica Illinois and then the ProPublica Local Reporting Network, which currently jointly publishes yearlong projects with more than 20 local news organizations. To help create more vital investigative journalism in communities where such stories would otherwise not be attempted, in 2019 ProPublica also launched a Texas initiative with the Texas Tribune.
Work from these local initiatives has won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, the Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting, the Fred M. Hechinger Grand Prize for Distinguished Education Reporting, the Scripps Howard Impact Award and a Gerald Loeb Award for Distinguished Business and Financial Journalism, among other honors, and has prompted extraordinary impact across the country.
Searches are currently underway for Atlanta- and Phoenix-based editors to lead the South and Southwest bureaus. The Midwest unit, which will continue to be led by editor Louise Kiernan, is also hiring additional reporters. Selections for the ProPublica Distinguished Fellows program will be announced later this year. To apply or get updates about all posted positions, visit propublica.org/jobs.
About ProPublica ProPublica is an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest. With a team of more than 100 dedicated journalists, ProPublica covers a wide range of topics, focusing on stories with the potential to spur real-world impact. Its reporting has contributed to the passage of new laws; reversals of harmful policies and practices; and accountability for leaders at local, state and national levels. Since it began publishing in 2008, ProPublica has received six Pulitzer Prizes, five Peabody Awards, three Emmy Awards and eight George Polk Awards, among other honors.