Illustration by Dani Carlson
As the Cleveland press corps relentlessly contracts and the news outlets that employ journalists abandon or abdicate their historic roles, fewer stories are being reported. The Center for Community Solutions, a local think tank concerned with social and economic conditions and community health, wants to help change that.
Through a grant launched Monday, local journalists will have the opportunity to apply for individual reporting awards worth as much as $2,500. These awards, which can be used for reporting expenses — travel, research, etc. — are available to reporters who live within 100 miles of Cleveland and are interested in pursuing topics related to health and human services.
Reporters who receive the awards will have total editorial autonomy over their projects. They will be required to publish their work in a local media outlet within a year of the award. These can be print outlets, websites, television or radio stations. The award is open to staff reporters and freelancers, provided they have the support of a local media organization.
Dani Carlson, Director of Communications and Strategy at the Center for Community Solution, spearheaded the effort. She was, until recently, a reporter herself and told Scene she knew form personal experience that wanting to pursue a story but being unable to, due to a lack of funding, is a "crushing feeling."
"I’ve watched with a lot of concern as newsrooms shrink and as talented, knowledgeable reporters lose their jobs," Carlson wrote in an email. "I know personally that the most important stories that have the biggest impact come from going to every city council meeting, every zoning board meeting, every finance subcommittee, from digging into tips and being present and asking questions. It might sound cliché, but reporters are crucial watchdogs to make sure that everyone is informed of what’s going on in their communities and that tax dollars are being spent wisely. My concern is what happens when there isn’t a reporter to ask those questions or tell those important stories?"
Carlson said that she and the Center's Executive Director, John Corlett, started talking about the idea a year ago and that she conducted research and had conversations with local journalists and the Institute for Nonprofit News to help design the grant. She said she's glad to work for an organization that recognizes the power and importance of independent local journalism.
"My hope with this grant," Carlson wrote, "is that the funding will make a difference. Whether it’s used for travel to get that crucial interview the newsroom may not have been able to afford, or for a subscription to a really important data resource, my hope is that this grant helps journalists do what they’re supposed to do – tell great stories that make an impact."
Applications for these awards will be accepted until May 17, 2019 and should be completed online
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