Home » OPINION » Columns » TODD SMITH — Movement aims to place 1,000 journalists in newsrooms in next 5 years

TODD SMITH — Movement aims to place 1,000 journalists in newsrooms in next 5 years


Many newsrooms have dwindled to a mere skeleton of what they once were, but starting in 2018, local newsrooms will get a chance to beef up their staffs.

Last week, a new project was announced at the Google News Lab Summit that aims to place 1,000 journalists in newsrooms in the next five years, according to the Poynter Institute. Report for America takes ideas from several existing organizations, including the Peace Corps, Americorps, Teach for America and public media.

Unlike foreign or domestic service programs or public media, however, RFA gets no government funding.

Wanted, Journalists

Here’s how RFA will work: On one end, emerging journalists will apply to be part of RFA. On the other, newsrooms will apply for a journalist. RFA will pay 50 percent of that journalist’s salary, with the newsroom paying 25 percent and local donors paying the other 25 percent. That reporter will work in the local newsroom for a year, with the opportunity to renew.

RFA comes from a partnership between Google News Labs and the Groundtruth Project. RFA also gets support, and its reporters will get training, from the Center for Investigative Journalism, the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, the Solutions Journalism network and the Knight Foundation.

Emerging journalists – not necessarily young but new to the business  — must have the skills to report and show they know how to have an impact quickly.

Partnerships for these journalists go beyond local newsrooms. Digital start-ups, public radio stations, TV stations and journalism schools are all possible partners. But they have to make the case that they will use the RFA journalist for civically important local journalism that’s in the public’s interest.

For the first year, half the RFA journalist’s salary will be paid by RFA, a quarter by the local newsroom and a quarter from local donors that that newsroom has to help find.

RFA is thinking carefully about how newsrooms can do that and not put themselves or their reporter in conflict or question because of that funding. GroundTruth Project adopted guidelines that ensure editorial independence at every step, he said.

After that first year, the newsroom has the opportunity to renew. If it does, the cost sharing will shift to put more of the burden on the newsroom and community.

On the reporter’s end, there will be a community service requirement. That work will be related to their skills, Waldman said, and might including working to help a high school newspaper go digital.

Wanted, Mentors

RFA isn’t just looking for newsrooms that need people to help them cover their communities. They’re also looking for newsrooms that have a tradition of excellence and mentoring.

Digital natives can bring the skills they’ve learned to cover the news into the local newsrooms, and they’ll get the experience of working with good, tough editors and colleagues who can help them grow as journalists.

Local reporting offers the chance to break through that experience and know what to look for in a way that national and international doesn’t, at least when you’re brand new.

Movement Is Great for Communities

National and foreign service organizations regularly face a few criticisms: They’re colonizing the places they serve and replacing local workers with service workers.

And bringing in both people from the area and people from outside the area with different perspectives should be a good thing in the newsroom.

Google News Labs is developing a training model around the use of Google tools in the newsroom, for instance, which the RFA reporter will share with their new newsroom.

Newsrooms are hollowed out, the old business model is broken, and on a certain level, RFA hopes to help by getting more reporters on the street.

It can be sustainable if RFA can help unlock the support of local donors, who previously, perhaps, didn’t view local journalism as a civic need. In the past, the way to support a newsroom was to buy a subscription or an ad.

These local media outlets are  also staffed by those who know their communities and the way to tell their stories, people who could be mentors to young journalists, and people who could learn new skills from those young journalists.

Facebook bars advertisers from editing news headlines

Facebook is continuing to make progress in protecting the integrity of news articles shared via links on the social network.

Over the summer Facebook announced that non-publisher pages could no longer overwrite link metadata – such as headlines, descriptions and images – in Graph API or page composer, and it added a tab to its page publishing tools so that publishers that rely on preview metadata in to customize their content appearance on the social network can indicate link ownership and continue to edit their links, according to Adweek.

Facebook took similar steps to bar advertisers who promote news articles from altering their headlines and descriptions last week, according to The Wall Street Journal.

A Facebook spokesperson told Social Pro Daily, “We want publishers to have control over how their stories appear on Facebook. Today, we offer the ability for publishers and advertisers to test different headlines for links to stories and other content they create and share on Facebook to see what works best. While they should be able to edit links pointing to their own material, they shouldn’t be able to edit headlines on stories they didn’t create. We announced in June that we would stop allowing people and pages from editing headlines in links to content they don’t own, and we’re also doing the same for when people buy ads. Advertisers will still be able to edit headlines in links when they point to their own content, and we have strict policies in place that prohibit misleading ads.

Vitriolic Mic: President Trump’s National Anthem stance ignites action

President Trump ignited controversy across the world – yet again – in his vitriolic lambast of NFL players and teams not standing for the national anthem.

And to make matters worse, he called on NFL owners to fire those refusing to stand.

It seemed that the controversy involving NFL players kneeling at the beginning of football games had died down. Until the Donald stirred a hornet’s nest.

And the whole thing has seemed to backfire – as NFL teams, players and owners lock arms in unity. But the controversy is sure to continue as players exercise their freedom of speech and patriotic Americans – including The Spin Cycle – continue to stand in reverence and respect for the flag and the heroes who have defended our country and way of life from sea to shining sea.

President Trump needs to let this go, and start acting presidential. The swamp is only getting higher and the gridlock greater Inside the Beltway! It’s time to lead, Mr. President!

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

» TODD SMITH is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon.


… we’d like to ask for your support. More people are reading the Mississippi Business Journal than ever before, but advertising revenues for all conventional media are falling fast. Unlike many, we do not use a pay wall, because we want to continue providing Mississippi’s most comprehensive business news each and every day. But that takes time, money and hard work. We do it because it is important to us … and equally important to you, if you value the flow of trustworthy news and information which have always kept America strong and free for more than 200 years.

If those who read our content will help fund it, we can continue to bring you the very best in news and information. Please consider joining us as a valued member, or if you prefer, make a one-time contribution.

Click for more info

About For the MBJ

Leave a Reply