ST. PETERSBURG (December 11, 2023) — The Poynter Institute, a global leader in journalism, and The Just Trust, one of the largest dedicated criminal justice reform funders in the country, are pleased to announce a $250,000 grant to expand Poynter’s groundbreaking training program designed to transform crime reporting in the United States into public safety journalism.
The grant will support hundreds of reporters, producers, and editors from 25 newsrooms and news networks across the country in reimagining their coverage through the program Transforming Crime into Public Safety Journalism, led by Poynter Senior Vice President Kelly McBride and Poynter adjunct faculty member Cheryl Thompson-Morton.
McBride and Morton have already led 71 newsrooms through the six-month program designed to reimagine coverage of crime to better serve their communities. McBride serves as the chair of the Craig Newmark Center for Ethics and Leadership at Poynter. Thompson-Morton is the director of the Black Media Initiative at Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York.
The program coaches newsrooms to shift their coverage from disconnected and sensational stories of individual crimes to deeper reporting about public safety trends. Newsrooms participating in this course learn to disrupt common journalistic habits that amplify false stereotypes, harm communities and leave the public with a distorted sense of crime trends.
More than 400 people from both large and small newsrooms across platforms – digital, TV, radio and print – have completed the program, which includes rewriting newsroom policies and training journalists. Newsrooms tailor individual solutions for the communities they serve.
The Just Trust is one of the leading supporters of criminal justice reform in the country, and focuses on building a strong public safety media ecosystem as part of its broader approach to transforming the justice system in America.
“Criminal justice reform is all about reorienting our justice system so that it prioritizes prevention, safety, accountability, rehabilitation, and healing, instead of just reacting to and punishing harm,” said Ana Zamora, longtime justice reform advocate and founder and CEO of The Just Trust. “The news media plays a really important role in that dialogue – in deciding whether to maintain a problem-oriented culture where communities are always afraid, or a solutions-oriented one, where communities are engaged in smart conversations about how to actually solve problems.”
McBride thanked the organization for the new partnership.
“We’re grateful for the confidence the Just Trust has in the importance of this program to help break harmful patterns of news coverage and better serve communities,” McBride said. “This grant will give 25 more newsrooms the opportunity to improve their public safety coverage and do more meaningful journalism.”
As a former police reporter, McBride has specialized in reforming the journalism profession’s coverage of crime, violence and trauma. Since joining Poynter in 2002, McBride has helped newsrooms evolve best practices on issues of sexual assault, suicide and mental health, and mass shootings.
“Newsrooms everywhere have deeply entrenched habits when it comes to covering crime. Chase the scanner, quote the police, ‘if it bleeds it leads.’ I know this from my own experience and from offering ethical guidance to hundreds during my time here at Poynter,” McBride said. “Most of the reporters and editors I encounter really want to do better work. But newsroom systems and culture make it hard to change.”
”Creating industry-wide change requires self reflection, setting new principles, building new muscles, and creating practices and systems for accountability,” Zamora added. “That’s what the Poynter team is doing here – creating the framework and the infrastructure to move a collective desire to change into action. We’re proud to stand alongside early funders of the program – like the MacArthur Foundation and Annie E. Casey Foundation – to help write its next chapter.”
Senior Director, Publications and Local News Initiatives
For the Just Trust:
Vice President, Brand & Communications
About the Poynter Institute
The Poynter Institute is a global nonprofit working to address society’s most pressing issues by teaching journalists and journalism, covering the media and the complexities facing the industry, convening and community building, improving the capacity and sustainability of news organizations and fostering trust and reliability of information. The Institute is a gold standard in journalistic excellence and dedicated to the preservation and advancement of press freedom in democracies worldwide. Through Poynter, journalists, newsrooms, businesses, big tech corporations and citizens convene to find solutions that promote trust and transparency in news and stoke meaningful public discourse. The world’s top journalists and emerging media leaders rely on the Institute to learn new skills, adopt best practices, better serve audiences, scale operations and improve the quality of the universally shared information ecosystem.
The Craig Newmark Center for Ethics and Leadership, the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), MediaWise and PolitiFact are all members of the Poynter organization.
Support for Poynter and our entities upholds the integrity of the free press and the U.S. First Amendment and builds public confidence in journalism and media — an essential for healthy democracies. Learn more at poynter.org.
About The Just Trust
The Just Trust – founded in 2021 – is a leading supporter of justice reform and public safety innovation in the U.S. It works to power state and national advocacy efforts, media work, and narrative change campaigns across the country and across political divides to transform the criminal justice system in America into a smarter, more humane engine of justice and safety that makes our communities stronger. Learn more at TheJustTrust.org