The following is a conversation between Steven Waldman, President and Co-Founder of Report for America, and Denver Frederick, the Host of The Business of Giving.

Steven Waldman, President and Co-Founder of Report for America

Denver: And it is indeed a pleasure to welcome to the show one of the six finalists of the MacArthur Foundation’s 100&Change competition. He is Steven Waldman, the President and Co-Founder of Report for America.

Welcome to The Business of Giving, Steve, and congratulations on being named one of the superlative six! 

Steven: Thank you very much for having us. And yes, it’s an incredible honor. 

Report for America is a national service program that places talented journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities, to help address this colossal crisis we have now — the collapse of local news — where communities are just losing their sources of news and information.

Denver: Share with listeners the mission of Report for America.

Steven: Report for America is a national service program that places talented journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities, to help address this colossal crisis we have now — the collapse of local news — where communities are just losing their sources of news and information. 

Denver: Let’s talk a little bit about that. How significant has been the loss of journalism jobs over the last couple of decades? 

Steven: To put it in some perspective, it’s about a 60% drop in the number of reporters. So that’s equivalent to the collapse of the coal industry to just give a sense of perspective about how severe it is. 

Now, in the case of journalism and local reporting — this is really about local reporting, by the way. It’s important to make that distinction. This is really about people who cover the school board meetings and the sewer commission and the local hospitals, things like that. That’s the kind of reporting that’s going away. And the industry basically, because of the rise of the internet, lost its business model to simplify it, and that has led to massive layoffs in news organizations around the country. 

There are 1,800 communities right now that have no news source at all–those are called “news deserts,” and there’s another several thousand that are called “ghost newspapers.” These are great new phrases that have been invented to describe this very scary new phenomenon. Ghost newspapers are newspapers where there’s still a newspaper there, but they hardly have any real reporting, and there’s no local coverage in the papers. So you really have thousands of communities in America that are not having basic coverage of what’s happening in their community. 

Denver: I know it’s difficult to try to prove a negative, but is there any research on what happens in communities when local journalism disappears?

Steven: There is, and it’s frightening. What you see is that when newspapers go away, you see a rise in corruption; you see a drop in voter turnout, a drop in voter engagement in general. You see actually more polarization, which was interesting.  That, I’m not sure people would have necessarily predicted. You even see higher bond prices for municipalities as the word goes out that, essentially, it’s a less, well-run, less well-watched city or town, and it can lead to higher taxes or less city services. 

Those all kind of make sense when you think about it. If no one’s watching City Hall, it’s more likely that there’s going to be corruption. If no one is covering elections, it’s less likely people will know or care about who’s running and what the differences between the candidates are or why they should get involved. So it’s all intuitive, but there are now academic studies that back this up and that, essentially, the ability of a community to solve its own problems gets much worse. 

So this isn’t really just a journalism problem. This is a problem about: Can a community fix its own schools? Can a community get together and solve economic development problems? All the various things that go into a community solving their own problems are undermined when there’s not a healthy local news system.

Denver: I’m listening to you and adding up everything you just said, it’s a crisis of democracy, isn’t it? 

Steven: Yes. It really is. That’s really what it comes down to. The ability of a democracy to function on a community level is: it doesn’t work without information. It’s that basic.

And part of the challenge with this is that when you talk to people who aren’t in the thick of this and say there’s a shortage of news, people say, “What on earth are you talking about? There’s no shortage of news. I’m bombarded with news. I got news–“

Denver: Can’t get away from it.

Steven: “I can’t get away from it! Everything…I pick up my phone, my refrigerator, my TV — I can’t get away from news.” There doesn’t seem like there’s a shortage of information in the world right now, but it’s a very specific thing. It’s actually a shortage of reporting is the other way of looking at it. It’s a shortage of independent people on the ground asking questions about all these different topics of city government, and education, and health, and things like that.

Denver: And at the heart of that is the financial model no longer works. 

Steven: That’s really it. That’s what started this. It was local news for a long time, more than a century, was really subsidized by advertising. There’s a little bit of a misconception that the internet hurt local news because it stole readers away from newspapers; that’s not really what happened …or that wasn’t the problem. It’s that it stole advertisers. 

So the advertisers went away or dropped dramatically, and that’s really the heart of the crisis. And it’s also why it’s not going to come back. It’s like that part of it is changed permanently. So it means that we all have to be looking at how we’re going to get this basic function of democracy working and attended to in a new way. 

 I think when this first started to happen five years ago… or a little bit more than that, people thought, “Okay, this is a disruption, but there’ll be — at the early stages of disruption, you can’t see what the solution is. There’ll be a new phone app that will come along and solve the problem for us, some new piece of technology.” And it hasn’t happened. In fact, the technology is tending to make it worse because it’s intended to lure advertising away from local newspapers.

So we’re at the point where we have to look very differently at how to save local news. And that includes all sorts of different new models and a different role for the nonprofit sector as part of local news. 

Denver: Well, it seems to be we’re a little bit on our way to solving it just by being able to face the reality that you just expressed. That’s the first thing. It’s not going to come back, and let’s not dream on that it will, like Kodak thinking that print film is going to come back again. You have to be able to move on. 

Well, all that you’ve just described is what inspired you to help start Report for America and reestablish journalism as a public service. And what you’ve created, Steve, is more or less a national service program, right? 

Steven: It really is. It’s modeled on elements of AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, Teach for America, City Year. And my wife refers to me having had an acid flashback without the acid, which was: I was in the middle of going to all these conferences about the decline and collapse of local news, and everyone’s sitting around thinking  “How are we going to deal with this? What kind of new piece of technology or a new thing for the advertisers are we going to deal with?” And I had this flashback to a very early part of my career when I briefly left journalism and went to work at AmeriCorps, the government agency that runs AmeriCorps, the Corporation for National Service. I’d written a book about the–

Denver: A wonderful book. 

Steven: Thank you. It was a very interesting period because I basically got to hang out with all of these young social entrepreneurs who had created these then-new national community service programs like Teach for America and City Year and all these different programs that became part of AmeriCorps. And I learned a ton from that, and I just started to think, “Gosh,” listening to all my fellow journalists scratching their heads about this, I kept thinking, “There are some things that we could learn from those people who started these national service programs.” And it was on, I would say, a practical level and a spiritual level.

Practical level is they just figured all sorts of stuff out about how to help address urgent needs, how to get into nooks and crannies, like how to get into rural areas where they don’t necessarily have big nonprofit organizations. There are all sorts of interesting practical things. Or how to have a matching system so that the organizations have buy-in and you’re building long-term sustainability.

And then on a spiritual level, I hope I’m using the word right in this case, just the notion, as you’ve said, to view local news– and being a local reporter– as a public service profession. That’s what this is. Just like being a teacher. I think a lot of journalists, really most journalists, got into the profession with that in mind.

Denver: I think you’re right. They’re idealistic. 

Steven: It gets ground out of you by the business models and the reality of what your life is like. 

Denver: I really love the way you look at their problem because, again, we are too future-oriented, and we’re always looking for something that isn’t out there yet that we’re going to create. And there are times when looking back a little bit… there’s a lot of wisdom there, and we sometimes don’t give it the dignity that it deserves. And this is one of those cases. 

Let’s talk a little bit about this process, and let me start with the news outlets themselves. How do they compete for this? What are you expecting from the publications or the news outlets? What are they expecting from you? 

Steven: So the basic structure of this, to get very mundane about it, is we have two competitions. One is the competition to be a reporter, to be a Report for America Corps member. And the second, as you’re saying, is a competition to be a newsroom, to be a selected host newsroom, because they’re getting these very talented and subsidized reporters. So the basics of it is: once a person is placed, we pay half the salary. So they’ve got this highly talented person, and they also got financial help. 

So the newsrooms basically have to prove two things to us. One is that they’ve identified a really, really important need: a gap in coverage in their community — that’s very important — and not a gap in their newsroom, but a gap in the community that is really urgent. Now, that can be a geographic gap like what we call news deserts of like “There’s not a reporter in that whole county covering that county. ” It could be a community, like “The African-American community in this neighborhood hasn’t been covered well for 30 years.” Or “We have new Somali immigrants that never get any coverage,” thinks like that. 

Or it can be a topic. “No one’s covering healthcare anymore. When all the layoffs happened, they laid off the healthcare reporter. They laid off the school’s reporter, and now, literally, no one is covering schools and the town.” So they make the case for the need, and then they have to make the case that they will deploy this reporter, that they will have good editing and mentoring for this person, and that their work is going to be distributed well, and things like that. 

And then the other part that they have to show us is that they’re committed to working to raise money from their community. And that’s kind of an unusual twist on the program, because some of them say, “We don’t really need to or want to.” And we say, “This is actually a key part of the program because we’re trying to build sustainability. We’re trying to make it so these positions survive after two years.” It’s generally a two-year term.

And so the process, we have a big competition. We just actually closed the deadline two days ago for the next group. We have 225 reporters in the field currently with 163 newsrooms. And it’s about evenly split between nonprofit newsrooms and commercial newsrooms and newspapers. We’re platform-agnostic. It can be a public radio station, a newspaper, a new nonprofit website. We even have a public library that applied in a very creative partnership. They just have to prove that they’re going to address one of these really important news deserts. 

…it’s changed the dynamic within the newsroom and got these newsrooms to cover topics and communities that they, I would say, in most cases wanted to cover but couldn’t because of the economics of it.

Denver: It sounds as if you’ve got a little bit of a hybrid going here, which is probably what your intention is because, again, I think most of us think about the commercial model of news, and we certainly think of the nonprofit model of news, NPR, whatever the case may be. This seems to be a sort of a blended mix. Would that be right? 

Steven: Certainly, parts of it are. I think that’s one of the most interesting things to watch about this, because as you said, we definitely have nonprofits, and we’re a nonprofit, and we’re putting people into nonprofits. So part of that is straight that way. 

But when you look at what happens when we place a reporter into a newspaper, a commercial newspaper, it’s fascinating and really very encouraging because essentially, you’re injecting nonprofit sensibility and money into a commercial newsroom, and some really positive things happen with that.

One example that had just tickled me was we had a couple of reporters at the Chicago Sun-Times, and that’s a commercial newspaper. It’s an unusual one now because it’s owned by the labor unions in Chicago. But it’s a commercial newspaper, and their pitch to us was essentially, “We haven’t covered the Black community in Chicago well for a long time.” And they essentially pitched us on a beat that would be covering the South Side of Chicago and the beat could be described as “anything but crime,” which is like, “All we ever covered in that community was crime. This is the beat that’s going to actually look at economic development and healthy things that are happening.”

And there was a moment when… I think the editor was interviewed by Columbia Journalism Review about his experience with Report for America and he said, “Honestly, there are definitely moments where I really wish I could take Carlos and Manny, the two reporters, and shift them over to covering the latest murder. But I promised Report for America that we wouldn’t do that.” He had a little twinkle in his eye when he said that because he knew I would like to hear that. So he’s basically got these guardrails on the beat, that they’re forcing me to keep the person focused on the civically important beat and protected from the economic pressures that you would normally have of going for circulation or click-based reporting. 

So it’s changed the dynamic within the newsroom and got these newsrooms to cover topics and communities that they, I would say, in most cases wanted to cover but couldn’t because of the economics of it.

Denver: You’re avoiding that news stacking that sometimes can happen where you start throwing everything on top of everything else, and then you end up covering nothing particularly well. 

Let’s look at the reporter side of things, and I know that your applications to do this have absolutely gone through the roof. Tell us about that and what you’re looking for when somebody applies to be a reporter. 

Steven: We had 1,800 applications for about 170 open slots. So it’s —

Denver: Tougher than most schools, almost every school. 

Steven: That is more selective than almost every school. I think last time we checked, it was more than everything except Harvard, I think.

And so, A) it means the reporters are incredible. It’s like a very high-quality group of people. So that’s exciting because it means that when we put reporters in the field, we can make a promise to these newsrooms that they’re going to hit the ground running. This isn’t like a training program for journalists. This is a program to actually help communities through good reporting. 

And the other thing that’s been really exciting is, it’s about… this last round was 42% journalists of color, which is more than double the norm in newsrooms. So it’s very reflective of the communities that they’re going in, which is a very good thing that’ll help the reporting be better. But it’s also reflective of that generation of Americans and young reporters. And they’re from all over the place, really these reporters. 

So here’s an interesting thing that’s maybe a little surprising and different from Teach for America is they’re mostly not right out of college. The average age is 26 or 27. So they’re mostly people who have had a couple of years of experience reporting somewhere already, and that’s also part of why they’re able to get going quickly. 

Denver: Give us an example of a couple of stories that have been covered by these reporters.

Steven: It’s so hard to choose. Let’s see. The one that always sticks in my mind because it was so early on was we had a reporter in Eastern Kentucky working at the Lexington Herald-Leader who came in, and in his first week started doing stories about how they didn’t have running, drinking water. They didn’t have clean drinking water in this rural part of Eastern Kentucky, and he just kept on it. And we visited their homes and went to the meetings, and it got attention and became almost a national story to the point where the state legislature allocated several million dollars to help fix the water system in Eastern Kentucky. 

What’s interesting to me about that is it wasn’t a year-long investigative project. He just… he was there. He went to the meetings. He was listening to people who had been complaining about this for a long time. It wasn’t like the problem just started then; it’s just that no one was listening to the folks in that area. 

We had someone do a series about unexplained prison deaths in the Mississippi prison system just going through the roof in August. We had a reporter in Ohio break stories about a female judge who was exchanging, basically using sexual favors to extort allegedly favors from clients. And then just recently, it was like more small-scale community level in a Cincinnati neighborhood… a story about how when the city closed this playground that the city probably just thought it was another playground, and it turned out it was hugely important in this community as a gathering place. The crime had started to go up after they closed it, and that led them to reopen the playground. And there was–

Denver: You had one in Utah, didn’t you, that somebody earned twice their salary back in no time whatsoever? 

Steven: Yes, Zak Padmore. Zak Padmore covers San Juan County, which is one of the poorest counties in Utah. And it was kind of a double scandal where the county was lobbying against the Bears Ear Monument, which was against public opinion, but this story was about how the law firm double-billed the county. And it wasn’t like in the scale of national journalism where you might uncover a billion dollars of malfeasance. It wasn’t on that scale. It was like $150,000 or something like that. But A) that’s real money in San Juan County, and B) as you said, it’s like with one story, he earned back for the county an amount that’s twice, more than twice what his salary was. 

And so it’s a great example of how you have to think about this kind of journalism… not in traditional economic terms of like “Is it generating enough money for the newspaper?” But in civic terms, like “What’s the civic value?” So that journalist’s one story had huge civic value to the community.

Part of what we think is so important about this model, about just local journalism in general, is being there on the ground, being part of the community.

Denver: And it gets everybody else in that community thinking twice before they do anything that’s ill-gotten because somebody is watching finally.

You know, an interesting aspect of this, Steve, I thought, is the service project that reporters are expected to do in their local community. Has that had the impact you were hoping for? 

Steven: Yes. It’s had the impact and plus an additional one we weren’t expecting. So what I mean by that is, as you said, the reporters are required to do a service project in local high schools or middle schools. It’s a variety of different projects, but they tend to be youth-created media, like helping with a high school newspaper or a podcast or something like that. We figured they would do good work and they would be helpful in the community, and they have been. 

They’ve had — what were some of the examples? There’s a bilingual community where they found that the students knew what was going on in the school, but the parents who often didn’t speak English didn’t know because the communications from the school were in English. The students created a newsletter for the parents to educate them about what was going on in the school. So things like that. 

What was a little surprising is that it had benefits to the Corps member, to the reporter, of several types. One is just getting situated in deep, more deeply embedded in the community. Part of what we think is so important about this model, about just local journalism in general, is being there on the ground, being part of the community. Not just covering the school board meetings, but being seen covering the school board meetings so someone can come up to you at the supermarket and say, “The real story in the school…” That’s really important and part of building trust back, right? 

So this gives them a way of connecting into the community. The kids in high school are going home and saying to the parents, “This woman from the local newspaper comes in every week and is helping with the school newspaper.” It also gives them story ideas, and I think it also makes them feel empowered. The reporters themselves… These are young reporters, so they’re going into newsrooms where in some cases they feel like they’re the low person on the totem pole. And then they go to the middle school, and they’re like a rock star.

Denver: Absolutely. A grizzled vet! 

Steven: A grizzled vet! And so it gives them this feeling of what they’re doing is important. 

Denver: I also think it probably gives them a good insight into what’s happening because the official canon of a community is coming from, if I can say, the school board, let’s say. But what’s really going on in the community is sometimes coming from those high school kids, and that stuff doesn’t get reported. So you get under… dig a little bit deeper in terms of what everybody’s thinking

Steven: And you hear about what the problems are at home. Not inappropriately, but just the stresses in families in a community… what they’re worried about. 

Denver: Speaking about stresses in families or stresses all over, what’s the impact the pandemic has had on local newsrooms?

Steven: It’s been devastating. There’s a statistic from the New York Times that since COVID, 36,000 journalists have been laid off, furloughed, or had their pay cut. And we don’t know the full fallout of this, but it’s going to get worse because it was already bad. The collapse of local news actually predates COVID, but all of these businesses that have shut down or been closed, those are also advertisers. Advertising has just dried up in a lot of these communities and that was the main source of income.

Denver: So nobody’s going to the store anyway, even if they… what should they advertise? And there’s no local events, there’s no concerts, there’s nothing. 

Steven: Right. The community functions, all those things that are… we don’t think of this foremost. There’s no reason why we would, but in addition to the negative effects on the community and those businesses, it’s also devastating to the local newspaper. And now, at the same time, what’s also happened is their audience is way up because people are seeing the importance of local news. This is now a life and death matter that you get accurate, trustworthy information. So you have this paradox where people are relying on local news more than they ever have, and yet the news organizations’ abilities to deliver and perform that service is really compromised.

 And I’m also worried that in the next six months, it’s just… the floor is going to fall out, like we’re going to have hundreds, if not thousands of more bankruptcies among newspapers. And the negative trends, which are heading in that downward direction anyway– we all know there are deep causes– are going to accelerate. So the problem is going to get worse. 

Denver: I think you’re absolutely right. People can sometimes cobble things together for six months, even on a personal basis or a business. But there comes a time when there’s no duct tape left. There is no other way to make it go. 

You know, something which is very recent, I think pretty exciting, too, is this Rebuild Local News coalition. Tell us about it. 

Steven: Yes. Great. Thank you. So I started instigating what I would call a “pop-up coalition” of different organizations that work in local news after COVID started. And I, first of all, was terrified about what was happening to local news and how this was going to make it worse, but also started to hear some of the discussions about public policy responses. 

And it’s a little bit of a subtle thing. I think a lot of journalists and a lot of people in this space have reluctantly come to the conclusion that some government help may be needed. I’m one of them, honestly. And the reluctant part is obvious. It’s a really tricky thing to have the government get involved in journalism. It’s like if we’re the muckrakers, having the muckrakers take money from the muckmakers. 

Denver: Yes. Absolutely. “What happens to your editorial independence?” the people will say…all those questions. 

Steven: Right. And yet, we’re at a point where the collapse is so severe and the threat to democracy is so strong that we have to be looking at things like that. And so we convened this group of different news organizations and coalitions, with a special emphasis on locally-owned and nonprofit news organizations, as opposed to the big chains that are increasingly owned by hedge funds and private equity firms… to look at whether there are some policies that could help without endangering editorial integrity; and there are. And so, we’ve been advocating for that.

One of them is the idea of providing a $250 refundable tax credit to people to buy local newspaper subscriptions or donate to a local nonprofit news organization. So it’s not the government… someone in the government sitting there and making judgments about what news organization ought to get a check. It’s enhancing the power of residents to help local news organizations themselves and get better informed themselves.

Denver: It sounds pretty important. It’s a way to leverage the tax system to the benefit of society, which is what that system should be doing to a large degree. 

Let’s move on to the competition a little bit. I think there’s a lot of listeners who are interested in how you have come upon this solution. Because, again, you’re looked upon as one of the six who’ve really taken a problem, taken a challenge, and have reframed it, have dis-aggregated it, and come up with a very creative and original way in which to address it. Can you just talk a little bit about how you went through that process and your thinking that went into it?

Steven: I think the first principle that we tackle this with is incredibly basic, which is that we need more reporters on the ground. It sounds very obvious right now, but the truth is that, to a large degree, the response from the tech world and the business world and local news when these disruptions started to happen was “We’re going to come up with ways… technology that’s going to make it so we don’t need reporters.” And so we fundamentally challenged that premise and said, “Yes, there are certainly efficiencies. Not every town has to have its own movie reviewer now, like you don’t have to do that.” But at a certain point, the problem really is a lack of reporters.

And then the second part is to approach it as a national service program that borrows from AmeriCorps and Peace Corps and Teach for America. And that means a couple of things. One is attracting great emerging reporters to go and do it with a spirit of service. And the second part is more practical, which is to share the costs. So we pay for half the salary. The newsroom pays for usually a quarter of the salary, and then we work together to raise a quarter of the salary from the community and donors, which makes the whole thing much more durable and sustainable in the long run. 

So it both puts reporters on the ground and is genuinely attempting to change the news ecosystems permanently. It’s not just like we want to plug the gap and stick our finger in the dike. We want to try to create new systems in communities–

Denver: Sustainable.

Steven: –that are sustainable, and that are going to look very different than what local news was. And frankly, our aspiration is that it’ll be better than it was in the “golden age” because we all know even in the golden age–

Denver: It wasn’t golden.

Steven: –it was not golden for a lot of people. So we think we’re trying to view this as an opportunity to create a local journalism and information system that’s really better for democracy. 

Denver: And in listening to you there, too, it sounds to me that you somehow got out of the frame because very often when people frame problems, they stay within journalism. And in large part, because of your past experience, you went to a completely different frame and brought in the service corps model, which has nothing to do with journalism, at least in the way people would traditionally think about it, and it’s been that blend and hybrid. 

So Steve, if you should be the one to be awarded the $100 million by the MacArthur Foundation, tell us what your plans are, and what will it allow you to do that you can’t otherwise do? 

Steven: First of all, I should say one thing. Even being nominated has been really important, and I don’t just mean that in the normal it’s-an-honor-to-be-nominated way. It’s really important because for MacArthur to signal that this problem is on the same scale as malaria or clean oceans or homelessness, which are acknowledged, incredibly important problems, sends a huge important signal to the rest of the philanthropic world that the crisis in local news is extremely important and dangerous. So that by itself, regardless of what happens with Report for America, is already a very positive thing 

Denver: Point well taken. 

Steven: And honestly, what we would do is very simple. We didn’t twist ourselves in knots to create a whole new version of us in order to apply for the McArthur grant. We just basically said, “The size of this problem is enormous. We’re at 225 people, but we need to be at 1,500 people to really have the impact that communities need.” Like I said earlier, there are 1,800 communities without any coverage at all and that undercounts it. So the most important thing is it changes the program from being a nice program that would help a few hundred communities to one that could actually change the news landscape and make a big dent in wiping out news deserts. It’s not going to do it by itself, but it could actually really change the course of local news. 

So it’s in that sense… sometimes you have problems that are just so immense that it’s hard to think of a solution that will really make a dent — this would make a big dent. We could really have a profound impact on the state of local information and journalism in America.

…if you don’t have good journalism, you can’t solve any of your other problems.

…every problem that any kind of groups — nonprofit groups or just citizens — are trying to solve becomes very difficult to solve if you don’t have good journalism. It’s like the prerequisite and the baseline for a functioning democracy.

Denver: Let me close with this, Steve, and I’m just going to ask you to add onto what you’ve just said because, as you mentioned, you have some stiff competition. You have health and homelessness and oceans, and as we know, they’re doing some pretty amazing stuff. So what would be your final case that you would make as to why Report for America should be the one — the project that will have the greatest impact on humankind?

Steven: Well, honestly, I won’t make that case. I can’t. I can’t diss the people who are trying to cure malaria. That sounds really important. But I’ll say this as a general matter that is not specifically related to the other finalists, is that if you don’t have good journalism, you can’t solve any of your other problems.

Denver: Great point.

Steven: It’s, on a community level. If, let’s, say, you’re a school reform advocate and you’re trying to fix the schools, if you don’t have anyone covering the schools, good luck fixing the schools. So every problem that any kind of groups — nonprofit groups or just citizens — are trying to solve becomes very difficult to solve if you don’t have good journalism. It’s like the prerequisite and the baseline for a functioning democracy.

And to make democracy sound a little less abstract, it’s not just about voting and power. It’s about a community existing as a community and being able to solve its problems. And if you don’t have good information, you can’t do that. So that’s why I think the crisis in local news is so profound, profoundly important, not just to journalists. This isn’t about, “Oh, the journalists are losing their jobs.” Well, we can get other jobs, most of us. But it’s just not what it’s about. It’s like the ability for us as a society to function well is really at risk. So I think it’s a profoundly important topic. 

Denver: It’s the lifeblood that allows us to do everything else. Well, Steve, I want to thank you for being with us today. Tell us about your website, some of the things that are on it, and how people can get involved if they’re so inspired to do so.

Steven: And it has information if you want to apply — if you want to apply as a reporter, if you want to apply as a newsroom on what it means to be in the program. And, of course, it has a way that you can contribute. It’s a very scalable model because we’re embedding people into other local newsrooms. So there’s really no limit to how many reporters we could field. The limit is how much money we raised, to be honest. The more support we get, the more communities we can touch. 

Denver: Well, best of luck to you and your team in the MacArthur Foundation’s 100&Change competition. It was a real delight to have you on the program, Steve. 

Steven: Thank you so much. I really appreciate the conversation. 

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