Five Arkansas newspapers received grants to fund compensation for community reporters from the Arkansas Community Foundation (ARCF) Write for Arkansas initiative through a $252,000 matching grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. Winners were chosen by an Arkansas Press Association committee.
Receiving grants for the new community reporting positions are Areawide Media in Salem, The Courier in Russellville, the Madison County Record in Huntsville, the Stuttgart Daily Leader and the Texarkana Gazette.
"We received 27 applications for the five grants and were very pleased to award the grants to two weekly and three daily newspapers in diverse areas of the state," said ARCF President and CEO Heather Larkin. "Through these grants, we hope to increase the capacity of local newspapers to provide the in-depth coverage of local issues that citizens need to make informed decisions and that towns need to maintain a sense of community."
ARCF's Write for Arkansas Initiative is one of 24 projects funded through Knight Foundation's Community Information Challenge, a five-year, $24 million initiative to help community and place-based foundations find creative ways to use new media and technology to keep residents informed and engaged.
In addition to providing funding for five reporting positions, the grant will also enable the creation of a Write for Arkansas Web site where the reporters' stories will be collected in a searchable archive and where the reporters will blog about their community and experiences. The site will begin operation in late summer.
The Arkansas Press Association partnered with ARCF to recruit participating newspapers. The newspapers receiving Write for Arkansas grants will recruit, hire and supervise reporters to fill the new positions created through the program.
"These five newspapers will soon begin recruiting the new reporters, with all five to be in place by July or August," said Tom Larimer, executive director, Arkansas Press Association. "The Knight Foundation grants will go a long way toward filling a gap in local news coverage created by difficult economic conditions that have befallen newspapers along with other businesses in communities across Arkansas and the nation."
Arkansas Community Foundation has the capacity to engage communities in a thoughtful exploration of critical issues and can help assemble the resources to implement solutions. Arkansas's statewide community foundation has more than $120 million in assets and has provided more than $70 million grants since it began operation in 1976. Contributions to ARCF, its funds and any of its 27 local affiliate offices are fully tax deductible. For more information, visit www.arcf.org.
Areawide Media Publisher Janie Flynn said, "I am glad we got it. The grant will be an asset to this community and Areawide Media."