The Spokesman-Review in 2020 will greatly expand government reporting for Eastern Washington and North Idaho, as well as continue covering health issues that affect rural residents, thanks to a national grant from Report for America and local support from the Innovia Foundation.
In an announcement released today, Report for America said The Spokesman-Review has won grants to hire two reporters. The first grant will help fund a reporter to cover the statehouse in Olympia, doubling the paper’s staff in the seat of Washington government. A second grant will help fund a full-time reporter based in Washington, D.C., who will cover Congress and federal issues specifically for residents of Eastern Washington and North Idaho. Currently, no other newspaper in the Northwest has a dedicated reporter based in the nation’s capital. It’s a critical area of news for readers and one The Spokesman-Review is keen to provide.
“The old adage is that all politics are local, and although that is as true now as it has ever been, the news coverage out of our nation’s capital always has a decidedly national perspective and feel to it. We very much want to see if we can change that,” said Spokesman-Review Editor Rob Curley. “It isn’t just about deep and more meaningful coverage of our D.C. delegation, which we all want and need. It’s about looking at as many Beltway stories as we can through the prism of Eastern Washington and North Idaho.
“We don’t want to simply report on what’s happening there, we want to report on it in a way that makes it more relevant than ever to our local communities.”
Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report for one to two years on undercovered issues and communities. An initiative of the GroundTruth Project, Report for America addresses an urgent need at a time when local news organizations are struggling to survive.
“We offer a pretty simple fix for news holes in communities throughout the country — local reporters on the ground, who hold leaders accountable and report on under-covered issues,” said Steven Waldman, president and co-founder of Report for America. “The editors we’ve met during our application cycle have shown us amazing passion, commitment and sharp ideas for how to better serve their local communities.”
Report for America is expanding in a big way in 2020, placing 250 emerging journalists in 164 local news organizations in 46 states. This is more than four times the number of journalists placed in 2019.
The Spokesman-Review is one of four newsrooms in Washington – and the only on the East Side – to earn a grant for 2020.
In addition to learning of the new grant award, the Spokesman also has been notified that its request to extend grant support for a rural health reporter has been approved. Since joining The Spokesman-Review in June, Arielle Dreher has written about efforts to increase vaccination rates in the Idaho Panhandle, examined the health care desert in Metaline Falls and underscored the need for group homes for children with intensive medical needs. These are but three of the stories she has written for the paper, again with the support of the Innovia Foundation.
“In less than six months, we’re already seeing the kind of difference that Arielle’s reporting on rural health care is making not only in the small communities across the Pacific Northwest, but even across the nation,” Curley said. “Her stories are running in more than just our newspaper. From understaffed clinics and outdated technology to incredible achievements and moments of inspiration, it’s easy to see the impact that covering such an important topic like rural health care can have.”
Report for America is funding these new positions with more than $5 million in direct support to newsrooms. RFA pays half of a corps member’s salary, while asking its local news partners to contribute one-quarter and supporting them in getting local and regional funders to contribute the final quarter. The goal of the model is to expand the number of local reporting positions permanently.
Local support for these sorts of newsroom positions also comes from readers through our popular Northwest Passages Book Club and public forums series, which has helped with some funding of RFA positions, as well as a special projects editor position and event coordinator position.To contribute now to the Community Journalism and Civic Engagement Fund through the Innovia Foundation, please follow this link (online giving instructions are at the bottom of linked page) or call Spokesman-Review editor Rob Curley directly at (509) 459-5030.
This story has been updated to reflect that The Spokesman-Review was awarded two grants for 2020 from Report for America. And earlier version of this story only detailed the reporting position in Washington, D.C.