With Selection of Inaugural Local Journalism Partners, FRONTLINE Takes New Steps to Strengthen Investigative Reporting
BOSTON — November 7, 2019 — FRONTLINE, PBS’s flagship investigative documentary series, today announced the selection of the first class of partners in its Local Journalism Initiative. A groundbreaking, multi-year initiative to strengthen local investigative journalism in communities where it needs support, the initiative is supported with $3 million from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and $1 million from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Over the next year, FRONTLINE will provide comprehensive support to five reporting teams in Florida, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma and Wisconsin through a new partnership model that addresses the critical need for enterprise journalism in areas with limited or dwindling access to news and information. FRONTLINE will extend consistent journalistic guidance and editorial vetting, along with extensive expertise on how to connect investigative journalism with new audiences, helping these news organizations develop sustainable models that they can carry forward and adapt for future investigations.
“There is a direct correlation between a decline in local journalism and an increase in local corruption,” FRONTLINE Executive Producer Raney Aronson-Rath said. “Through the FRONTLINE Local Journalism Initiative, we’re helping reporters pursue investigations of vital public interest in communities where independent, accountability journalism is under strain. The ability to do this sort of reporting isn’t just essential to local communities — but to our democracy as a whole.”
The five selected partners are the Tampa Bay Times, Oklahoma Watch, Rocky Mountain PBS, New Mexico PBS (KNME-TV) and Milwaukee PBS. These partners were selected from among more than 80 proposals from newsrooms around the country. In partnership with FRONTLINE, the teams will conduct investigations focusing on education, environmental hazards and inequality, mental health, and a changing rural economy. Each team will receive funding to support this work, as well as guidance and training from FRONTLINE’s editorial, legal and audience engagement teams, including workshops that address branding, influencer outreach, multi-channel content distribution, and cutting-edge marketing and advertising techniques. The resulting investigative projects wiIl be published locally, and will also potentially be brought to a national audience through FRONTLINE’s PBS digital and broadcast platforms.
“We know that great journalism is happening in cities and towns across America — even as news outlets are dwindling,” FRONTLINE Senior Editor and Director of Local Projects Sarah Childress said. “Our goal is to increase the capacity of local media to do the great investigative work that so many communities need and so many local reporters want to do, if only they had the time and the resources to do it.”
The hunger for an effort like this, Aronson-Rath and Childress said, was evident in the volume of strong applications FRONTLINE received from investigative teams across the country — roughly 50 percent of which included a diverse mix of journalists and addressed issues affecting communities often underrepresented in the media.
“It was difficult to choose our inaugural round of partners because we received so many ambitious and exciting proposals,” Childress said. Applications will reopen in late spring of 2020 for the next class of the Local Journalism Initiative.
The Local Journalism Initiative is based in FRONTLINE’s newsroom at WGBH in Boston, with support from Knight Foundation and CPB. Knight’s funding is part of a $300 million commitment to build the future of local news and information that was announced earlier this year.
“FRONTLINE’s Local Journalism Project is bringing its compelling investigative reporting work to communities that need support to tell important stories,” said Jennifer Preston, Knight Foundation vice president for journalism. “By partnering with local newsrooms to investigate critical issues in the community, FRONTLINE is building an innovative, bold model for journalistic collaboration.”
“This project highlights the role of public media to bring journalism resources together on behalf of communities that need help addressing difficult issues,” said Kathy Merritt, CPB senior vice president, journalism and radio. “CPB is proud to support FRONTLINE in this effort and is committed to investing in local, fact-based journalism that serves the American people.”
“We have long focused on telling powerful narratives in local communities that also illuminate national issues,” adds FRONTLINE Executive Producer Raney Aronson-Rath. “But these new partnerships extend beyond the story—they are true newsroom-to-newsroom collaborations that incorporate audience development and impact strategies as well. Through workshops, trainings and editorial guidance, our aim in every case is to help each organization develop new skills and knowledge that will strengthen its investigative reporting in the future.We’re so grateful to Knight Foundation and CPB for supporting us in taking this commitment even further. We look forward to working with our partners to create and amplify high-quality investigative journalism, from the ground up.”
FRONTLINE, U.S. television’s longest running investigative documentary series, explores the issues of our times through powerful storytelling. FRONTLINE has won every major journalism and broadcasting award, including 91 Emmy Awards and 22 Peabody Awards. Visit pbs.org/frontline and follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr and Google+ to learn more. FRONTLINE is produced by WGBH Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS. Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Ford Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Abrams Foundation, the Park Foundation, the John and Helen Glessner Family Trust, and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation.
About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit kf.org.
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operations of more than 1,500 locally owned and operated public television and radio stations nationwide. CPB is also the largest single source of funding for research, technology and program development for public radio, television and related online services. For more information, visit cpb.org, follow us on Twitter @CPBmedia, Facebook and LinkedIn and subscribe for other updates.
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