Announcement

Apply to FRONTLINE’s Local Journalism Project

June 13, 2019

A crisis in journalism is presenting challenges to cities and towns across America. The closing of nearly 1,800 newspapers, and thousands of job losses in the news media, make it harder for vital information to reach the public and for reporters to tell the stories that hold authorities accountable and improve lives.

That’s why FRONTLINE is launching the Local Journalism Project. Starting in 2019, FRONTLINE will collaborate with local news organizations to produce investigative journalism, especially in communities where the health of independent reporting is endangered by the changing economics of the media.

For FRONTLINE, the PBS investigative series, the Local Journalism Project has two goals. The first is to help strengthen local reporting by supporting the kind of deep investigations that have positive impacts on communities. The second is to find new, under-covered stories that FRONTLINE can bring to a national audience on our PBS broadcast and digital platform.

The Local Journalism Project is being funded by a $3 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and a $1 million grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. It will be housed at WGBH Boston.

As of June 1, FRONTLINE is accepting project proposals from local news organizations. During each of the next four years, the series will select four or five projects annually on the basis of the strength of the proposed investigation, the geographic diversity of the news organizations and need for outside support to complete reporting and tell the full story.

The deadline for submitting proposals is July 15. Applications are available here. We’ll choose the inaugural projects sometime before the end of August. For more details, see below.

As part of the project, FRONTLINE will provide local partners with:

  • Up to $75,000 for an annual reporting salary. The financial support is designed to free reporters from deadline journalism to pursue an in-depth reporting project lasting months.
  • Editorial guidance from FRONTLINE journalists. We’re adding a full-time editor at FRONTLINE to manage the collaborations with our local partners and take a hands-on role in shaping individual investigations. We’ll tailor editorial support to the needs of our partners and whether the eventual form of the story will be in video, audio or text.
  • Advice from FRONTLINE’s audience development team. We’ll help strategize about how to build community engagement with the project and extend the reach of local journalism.
  • Support for training. We’ll collaborate with partners to design specific training for local journalists in areas that can help make investigative journalism and storytelling sustainable.

The Local Journalism Project is something new for FRONTLINE. But it’s consistent with the series’s core mission. In addition to our prize-winning national and international journalism, we’ve long turned to towns, cities and states to tell larger stories about economic issues, the environment, race, poverty, care for the elderly and abuse of power. A few recent examples include The Pension Gamble, focusing on Kentucky, Left Behind America, examining economic hardship in Dayton, Ohio, and Predator on the Reservation, set in Montana and South Dakota.

We also have a record of building collaborations with national and local news organizations. Examples of working with local reporters include the two-part English- and Spanish-language series Rape in the Fields and Rape on the Night Shift. We have also worked on investigations with newspapers such as The Oregonian, The Times-Picayune in New Orleans and The Hartford Courant.

One measure of journalism’s value in a democracy is whether it provides people with the news and information they need to be self-governing. The Local Journalism Project aims to contribute to this goal.

 

FAQs

Who can participate in the FRONTLINE Local Journalism Project?

We welcome proposals from local print, television, radio and online news organizations. Partner newsrooms should serve a specific geographic area. They should demonstrate a need for outside support to complete their proposed projects. FRONTLINE will select projects in part on whether they involve original, ambitious reporting in an area underserved by news media.

Public media outlets, non-profit media and private news operations are invited to apply.

 

What kind of projects is FRONTLINE looking for?

 We are looking for investigative projects on subjects of local relevance. The subject can have a national or global resonance (such as the environment), but the proposals should demonstrate a strong and specific local angle and importance. An ideal proposal would be a work in progress: a project off to a promising start that needs support to realize its full potential.

 

What forms will the eventual projects take?

News organizations participating in the project will produce stories for their own publications or platforms. When appropriate, we’d aim to co-brand and/or co-publish the stories on our digital platform.

 

Will the projects result in a FRONTLINE documentary?

The main goal of the project is not to produce a full-length documentary. However, if the right story and partner emerge we would explore that option. We encourage applicants to incorporate video into their proposals. We are visual storytellers first and foremost and want to help build that capacity at local news outlets.

 

How long will each partnership last?

Each project will take up to a year to complete. News organizations submitting proposals should be willing to commit to a long reporting period culminating in publication, rather than a quick turnaround. Deep reporting and narrative storytelling are our specialties, and we will look to replicate them at the local level.

 

How will the financial support work?

We will grant a stipend up to $75,000 to support a reporter on each project. The reporter may be a staff reporter or freelancer connected to a news organization. One purpose of the stipend is to free a reporter for an inquiry lasting months, without pressure to produce daily journalism. It would enable a news organization, for example, to backfill a beat reporting position for the duration of the investigation.

 

What if a team of reporters is working on the story?

We will consider applications in cases where more than one reporter is involved in the project. We’ll discuss with news organizations how to allocate the salary support.

 

Will FRONTLINE cover other expenses related to the project, such as travel and benefits?

We will cover benefits for individual reporting partners and some expenses for travel and additional research, depending on the needs of the project.

 

What kind of training will FRONTLINE provide?

Training will be designed jointly with our partners. Our goal is to help make investigative reporting and narrative storytelling sustainable. These require specific knowledge and skills that can be taught and refined in practice. We will collaborate with our partners to determine the training that best meets their needs.

 

How does my newsroom apply?

Applications are available here. For further information please send inquiries to frontlinelocal@wgbh.org

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