Report for America launches with a pilot in rural Appalachia

Report for America announced Tuesday that it's now accepting applications for three reporting positions based in rural Appalachia. West Virginia Public Broadcasting, the Lexington Herald-Leader and the Charleston Gazette-Mail will each take one Report for America journalist for a year-long assignment.

The call for applications marks Report for America's first since announcing last week. The project, which has similarities to Teach for America or Americorps, doesn't accept government funding. Report for America is a project by The Groundtruth Project and Google News Lab. It also gets support from the Solutions Journalism Network, the Center for Investigative Reporting, the Lenfest Institute for Journalism and the Knight Foundation. (Disclosure: Poyner gets funding from Lenfest and Google News Lab, and Knight funds my coverage of local news.) The three reporting positions covering Appalachia also include support from the Galloway Family Foundation.

The West Virginia partnerships came together as Report for America was forming and is the project's pilot. The call for the three positions, and for all Report for America assignments, is for "top, emerging journalists," according to the press release. Previously, the co-founders Charles Sennott and Steven Waldman told Poynter they weren't limiting applicants by age, but by experience.

According to the press release: 

"A goal of the project will be to support the emerging journalists through a mentorship program and a training workshop, which will include a collaboration with the Center for Investigative Reporting to prepare and guide the reporters to work together on a long-form piece for Reveal, the public radio program and podcast that CIR produces and distributes nationally with PRX."

The three journalists who are selected will work on daily and in-depth projects and will report directly to those news organizations. The in-depth project, according to the press release, will be a collaboration of the three newsrooms and look at "the difficult challenges of health care, poverty and the future of work — and how those issues are interconnected — in the coalfields of southern West Virginia and eastern Kentucky."

The reporter assigned to the Herald-Leader will reestablish a bureau in Pikeville, Kentucky, which the newspaper hasn't had since 2011. 

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News last week of the program got a mix of cheers and groans. The cheers came, mostly, for an influx of journalists to the places that need them most. The groans came, mostly, for the out-of-work journalists likely in those places already. And while the co-founders are still working out details, some big questions remain: What role and expectations will Google News Lab and Google itself have? How will RFA approach diversity in its hires? And what about those mid-career and veteran journalists who've been cut and cut and cut who have both community and institutional knowledge?

I've reached out to RFA with these questions. Here's what they told Poynter.

To apply for Report for America's first three spots, go here

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