Sometimes, the defense mechanism of humor is the only way to get through a tough situation.
Whether PR types want to admit it or not, the continued contraction and consolidation of the media industry, resulting in annual job cuts, presents a tough situation for anyone wanting to attempt to make news. So when I’m asked if more news layoffs are coming this year, I have been responding:
“It’s like Hanukkah. It’s coming in December, you’re just not always sure exactly when.”
Kidding aside, the cuts are taking place, as they have essentially every year since even before The Great Recession. But in the midst of this, there are actually some media organizations adding staff, via a new model that hasn’t gotten much attention as much attention as it deserves.
It’s called Report For America and while it won’t solve all of the news industry’s inherent challenges, it’s providing some relief. It works much in the way that Teach For America has helped strapped school districts, in a partnership that matches funding and talent to news organizations trying to do more.
Here’s how Report For America explains how it works:
“We hold two competitions. In one, news organizations make the case that they have urgent gaps in coverage and a plan to deploy the Report for America corps member. In the second, talented emerging journalists apply to serve these communities.
Report for America pays about half the salary. The other half is paid by the local news organization but we work with them to raise half of their half from local donors, small and large. The Report for America corps members get world class training, at the beginning of the term and throughout the service years. The term is one year with an option for a second year (most corps members end up serving two years).”
Report for America announced that in the coming year it is fielding 250 emerging journalists in 164 host news organizations to serve local communities across 46 states, including daily and non-daily newspapers, digital-only sites, public radio stations and TV stations.
Here in Michigan, the Associated Press is taking part, with new resources to cover statewide issues. Detroit Public Television (full disclosure, we provide consulting and communications services to that nonprofit media organization) won two positions, one will cover early childhood education and crucial policy issues affecting young children in Metro Detroit and the other will be assigned to report on water quality issues. It’s safe to say both areas of coverage are underserved by commercial outlets in the current environment.
Heading into 2020, amid an increasing challenging time for journalism and, by extension, PR, this presents new opportunities and should be seen as positive for audiences and communities.
To the 250, “corps” members, thank you for your commitment and please don’t be discouraged by either bad pitches or, for that matter, bad jokes.