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Charlotte Talks: Revitalizing American Journalism


Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020

Around the country newspapers are in decline, meaning less coverage, less accountability and a less informed public. An organization called “Report for America” is attempting to change that narrative.

The collapse of local journalism has strained local democracy. Newspapers are in decline, larger areas are losing coverage, and ad revenue is being snatched up by massive tech firms such as Facebook and Google.

This is not an example of outdated trends being replaced by new technology. Instead, it is a crucial function of democracy attempting to survive the digital age.

About 1 in 4 American newspapers layed off employees in 2018 as they continued to grapple with declining revenue amid the rise of online news, smartphones and social media. Of newspapers that did cuts in 2018, almost 1 in 3 did so at least twice. The crisis is particularly powerful in small counties, where coverage was already scarce.

Report for America is attempting to change this narrative: they will be placing 250 reporters in newsrooms across the country in 2020, and plan to have 1,000 more by 2024. The reporters follow critically important beats in 28 states and Puerto Rico, getting world-class training and serving vulnerable communities.

We talk to the president of this foundation, a young reporter and a veteran journalist to determine the state of American journalism and what its future might hold.

Susan King, dean of UNC Chapel Hill Hussman School of Journalism and Media

Steve Waldman, president and co-founder of Report for America

Alexandra Watts, Report for America journalist at Mississippi Public Broadcasting

Jesse Steinmetz is Assistant Producer of Charlotte Talks with Mike Collins. Before joining WFAE in 2019, he was an intern at WNPR in Hartford, Connecticut and hosted a show at Eastern Connecticut State University.