New grant program funds investigative projects by unemployed journalists

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The George Polk Grants for Investigative Reporting — underwritten by a grant from the Ford Foundation — program will provide grants ranging from $2,500 to $10,000 to experienced print and broadcast reporters who have been laid off. “We’re looking for the seasoned veterans who know where the bodies are buried and how to go about digging them up,” says George Polk Awards curator John Darnton. “All they need is a little funding to get going.” || Apply here. || Details after the jump.


Press release

Long Island University’s George Polk Awards to Fund Investigative Reporting Projects

Effort comes in response to massive newsroom layoffs since 2008

Brooklyn, N.Y. — Long Island University and administrators of the George Polk Awards in Journalism are set to kick off a program that will fund investigative reporting projects taken on by print and broadcast reporters who have been laid off from jobs in journalism.

The George Polk Grants for Investigative Reporting — underwritten by a grant from the Ford Foundation — will be geared toward experienced reporters who are not currently employed in journalism, but who have ideas for solid investigative work, said John Darnton, curator of the George Polk Awards. While special consideration will be given to such journalists, it is not an absolute requirement.

All work produced as a result of the grants will be published on the Internet.

“We’re looking for the seasoned veterans who know where the bodies are buried and how to go about digging them up,” Darnton said. “All they need is a little funding to get going.

“This is a major addition for the George Polk Awards. In addition to honoring the best enterprise reporting, we hope to inspire it. We want to sow the seeds as well as give out blue ribbons,” he added.

The University and the Polk Awards committee are responding to what has amounted to a crisis in the news industry, where thousands of journalists have lost their jobs since the start of the nation’s economic downturn in 2008. The program will provide grants ranging from $2,500 to $10,000, as well as editorial supervision.

Darnton said highlighting the work of the grant recipients on the Internet will inspire an increase of investigative journalism produced for the Web.

“Reporters get a little breathing room and the satisfaction of completing that story they’ve long wanted to do,” he said. “And if it makes a splash, it’ll draw attention to the Internet as a vehicle for uncovering corruption and abuse.”

Applications may be made on the George Polk Web site of Long Island University, liu.edu/Polk , starting immediately. Darnton noted the George Polk Awards longstanding tradition of rewarding top investigative journalism.

“Everyone understands that there’s a crisis in American newspapers, but not everyone realizes that there’s a crisis in American journalism. It’s come about because investigative and enterprise work, which is the most important for a free democracy, is in jeopardy and hasn’t made the leap over to the digital world,” he said.

Darnton added that recently there were some glimmers of hope, ranging from start-up Web sites covering local news in many cities to foundation-funded reporting enterprises like ProPublica, which has earned Polk Awards the last two years.

The George Polk Awards in Journalism are conferred annually to honor special achievement in journalism, with a premium placed on investigative and enterprise reporting. They were established in 1949 by Long Island University to commemorate George Polk, a CBS correspondent who was murdered in 1948 while covering the Greek civil war. The 2010 George Polk Awards were presented April 7.

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