June 24, 2024

Keeping Media and Government Accountable.

Report for America grant raises objectivity concerns for Wichita Eagle

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Two more full-time reporters will be coming to Kansas as part of the Report for America Grant program, but the terms of the grant raise serious objectivity concerns.

According to a Wichita Eagle story, the grant will help fund two journalists to cover climate change and workplace issues, this is in addition to a new position in the Associated Press Statehouse Bureau announced last month.

However, the wording of the story did raise some concerns about the objectivity of writing stories from a pre-determined viewpoint.

In the Eagle piece, Suzanne Perez Tobias wrote, “One reporter will be assigned to write about how climate change affects Kansas and the surrounding region. Most Kansans now believe in climate change, but about half do not believe man-made activities have contributed, according to the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication,” and stated as fact that “climate change impacts are real.”

However, there are significant researchers who doubt the current “consensus” on climate change and even many who do agree with the man-made theory do not believe the impact will be as dire as many politicians and activists claim.

According to the article, “A second Report for America reporter will examine issues facing the working class in Wichita, including changes to state worker compensation laws, income inequality, the decline in unions and economic insecurity. Of the 100 largest U.S. metropolitan areas, Wichita ranks No. 1 in manufacturing jobs, which account for more than 17 percent of employment here.

The Community Voice in Wichita and the Associated Press in Topeka also received grants to support local reporting.”

The Sentinel reached out to both Kansas Press Association President Emily Bradbury and Eagle Editor Michael Roehrman with our concerns and received assurances the new reporters would be held to journalistic standards.

“We have complete faith in our local newspapers to manage these new employees and their respective beats,” Bradbury said. “The grant announcement specifies that the employees will be ‘edited and managed by the local news organization where they work.’ This is a strong endorsement of autonomy.”

Roehrman agreed, stating simply: “The two new reporters will be held to the same standards as all of the Eagle’s reporters.”

According to a release, Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project, works with local newsrooms around the country in a Peace Corps-like model to create positions and joint funding.

Most applicants have between one and three years experience and receive training from Report for America, but are edited and managed by the local news organization where they work.

Report for America’s 2020 class is more than four times the size of this year’s, which has been reporting in about 50 local news organizations in 28 states and Puerto Rico.

“Today’s news marks the single biggest hiring announcement of journalists in recent memory — and comes as a direct response to the worsening crisis in local news across the country,” the organization said in the news release.

According to the Eagle story, interviews will begin in March and the new reporters will join the staff in June.

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