How journalism training programs across the nation are empowering and nurturing homegrown talent (page 3)

Organizational programming

The other path to more journalists in the field is through direct training in communities offered by a news organization.

The most well-known example of this is the Documenters program, which trains community members on how to cover a public meeting and then pays them to do so. Founded by City Bureau in 2008, the Chicago-based program has now expanded to six additional locations across the U.S. with the help of the Stronger Democracy Award, which came with a $10 million dollar prize.

Fellowship to Freelance


👥 Multi-person staff: Yes; small team at Southerly

💼 Job placement function: Somewhat; Program is not intended for formal full-time journalism work prior to completion, but Southerly may use interested parties as freelancers

💵 Funding type: Organization

At Southerly, an outlet that equips communities across the Southeast with tools they need to face environmental injustice, building power in its readership has always been on-mission. Launching a fellowship that educates people who were already doing the work of informing and distributing essential information about impending disasters was a natural next step, Founder Lyndsey Gilpin said.

The first recipients of the paid community reporting fellowship were selected in October 2022 for a 12-week training program. Through the training, the fellows created information access projects in their communities focused on disaster prep, response and recovery.

Out of more than 20 applicants across the region, the seven were chosen because they were already doing information-building work in their communities through art, organizing or public health outreach. The fellowship’s training and support is meant to ground their work in community journalism principles and news reporting skills. The primary goal is to produce powerful journalism that helps people navigate natural disasters and environmental crises. Secondarily, Gilpin hopes to utilize some of the cohort members’ talents should they be interested in freelancing.

“Most people know exactly what’s happening — something is making generations of my family sick — they just don’t have the tools,” she said. “Giving people basic info and also sharing with them resources gives people a chance to have agency over that.”

Gilpin, a class of 2022 JSK Fellow, said the Southerly fellowship was built on inspiration from other programs such as Canopy Atlanta, City Bureau, Bloomfield Information Project and many more who were willing to share resources with her.

“Some were (fellow participants) in the JSK fellowship, some like Outlier (Media) are inspirations and helped shared the ways they go about their syllabi and their approaches to community reporting,” she said. “I’m really grateful for all of their info and knowledge.”


👥 Multi-person staff: Yes; Multi-person team of full-time staffers

💼 Job placement function: Formal: In the CatchLight Local fellowship, CatchLight matches visual journalists and news organizations to place the journalist in a short-term, full-time fellowship; journalists often remain employed full-time or as freelancers with the organization after the fellowship is complete.

💵 Funding type: Organization and philanthropic funding

In the visual realm, CatchLight is providing a fellowship in another segment of local news: photojournalism. CatchLight Local works similarly to Report for America, offering half of a salary and placing fellows in local newsrooms. Report for America is a partner that provided funding for three of the six fellows in the California project.

“Visuals and images have a unique way of capturing communities,” CatchLight CEO Elodie Mailliet Storm said. “We live in a more and more visual world. The media ecosystem doesn’t really invest in that.”

CatchLight Local has gone through multiple pilot programs, but its current program focuses on California. The fellows are selected from all backgrounds, from no college experience to a master’s degree. What unites them is excellence in skill and a deep commitment to and understanding of the communities they’re serving. The fellows are often experienced in photography, professionally or otherwise, and have experience with community engagement work.

Limitations: A subsidy to offer high-quality visual journalism is needed and essential. But so is finding the right fit for each outlet and fellow in the matching process.

Many are able to transition to full-time work. Two out of the 3 fellows in the first pilot project of CatchLight Local were able to transition to full-time roles: David Rodriguez was hired post-fellowship by the Salinas Californian and worked there for three years before moving to the Detroit Free Press; Yesica Prado was placed with San Francisco Public Press for her fellowship in 2019 and remains employed at the outlet as a full-time news writer and photojournalist. All five of the current fellows in the California Visual Desk project will be renewed as staff next year at their partnering publications.

Outside of California, CatchLight fellow Max Herman worked as a temporary photo editor at ProPublica right after his Chicago fellowship.

Successes are also found in the freelance pipeline. Such is true for photographer Sebastián Hidalgo, one of the inaugural CatchLight Local fellows who participated in the Bay Area pilot. Hidalgo worked with The Californian in Salinas to produce a project on affordable housing in the area, especially for Spanish speakers. After forming relationships with folks who frequented the laundromats, Hidalgo was able to visually capture the fierce housing market. Working with Gannett’s Salinas Californian, he and his colleagues created a Know Your Rights as a Tenant guide for undocumented farmworkers. They published tips on how to negotiate with landlords, in both Spanish and English.

Hildago, a multi-award-winning journalist with permanent collections in the Library of Congress, the Harvard Art Museum and The National Museum of Mexican Fine Art, is available for freelance work and has been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, USA Today, ProPublica and more.

🌐 Other notable programs: New Jersey Information Consortium grantees (which are trained using Journalism + Design’s Community Journalism for Civic Power lessons), Bloomfield Information Project, Newark News & Story Collaborative

On-Demand Online Training

Kansas Publishing Ventures

👥 Multi-person staff: Yes; Two person team of part-time staffers

💼 Job placement function: Formal; Purchased by employer

💵 Funding type: Membership model or service fee

In response to a rapidly declining base of journalists across Kansas, local news company Kansas Publishing Ventures launched an online learning platform in September 2022 called “Press Pass,” geared toward small community newspapers that need to train community members to become contributors or full-time staff.

Kansas Publishing Ventures is a business duo comprised of husband and wife team, Joey and Lindsey Young, who own four newspapers across South Central Kansas. Lindsey, a former high school journalism and public speaking teacher, saw firsthand the challenges of hiring and retaining staff when she became an owner.

And she wasn’t the only one.

The Press Pass idea stemmed from a weekly meeting of a newspaper group called the Internal Society of Weekly Newspaper Editors, with members from all over the U.S. and Canada. In a group chat, a member from Wisconsin asked why there wasn’t a way to train a community member to become a journalist.

It was an ask that resonated with the group.

Press Pass is a 10-course class that’s on-demand, meaning editors and community members can work together on how to best go through the course.

For Lindsey, the biggest value is the time-saving component, for both employee training and community member learning.

“If I’m a stay-at-home mom, I don’t have time to go to campus, or if I’m on a Zoom call (for class), I can’t pause that,” she said. “The idea is: ‘We’re going to send you off to the school board meeting, watch these two videos,’ and they spend 20 minutes and then they have a basic idea of how to do it.”

The course covers the basics of community reporting, writing, editing, interviewing, and has specific guidance built in to talk through specific ethics and editorial standards with their editors. The program is designed for folks to be able to jump into whatever role might be needed, from a freelancer to a full-time employee.

“For me, the ideal person (for this training) is somebody that is invested in their community, has dug in and wants to live there, with basic writing skills,” she said.

For an overworked editor or newsroom leader, there still remains the lift of training and guiding a community member through the course. Additionally, news leaders still must develop a pipeline of people who are interested in taking the course.

“People keep saying, ‘It’s not that people don’t want to work, it’s about salary’ — we can’t even get to the salary discussion,” she said. “We have people asking if they can work remotely in Lawrence, hours away… if we’re having trouble, I can’t imagine what it’s like to hire out in western Kansas.”

Their current distribution model for the course is through state press associations, with free access for Kansas Press Association members. However, the training is available per organization for $250. And the courses are geared toward article-based journalism, with the potential for other media formats to be built later on.

But one of the helpful components has been the sense of community from small publishers through building the project for a year.

“At the end of the day, we’re facing a lot of the same challenges,” she said. “It’s been eye-opening for us.”

🌐 Other notable programs: Poynter self-directed courses, UCLA’s Extension program (not currently offered)

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"How journalism training programs across the nation are empowering and nurturing homegrown talent" table of contents

  1. How journalism training programs across the nation are empowering and nurturing homegrown talent
  2. Community College Programming
  3. Organizational programming
  4. Looking ahead