Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and his wife Wendy are giving NPR a $4.7 million grant for its Collaborative Journalism Network. The monies will be used to fund newsrooms in California and the Midwest.
The hubs will serve to boost local coverage and investigative journalism in those areas, for public radio, national news programs and digital platforms.
The Midwest hub will connect NPR member stations in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska.
"Now more than ever, we depend on high-quality journalism for timely and critical information," stated Wendy Schmidt. "Local news is especially important, and with so many newsrooms in decline, we need to invest in strengthening reporting resources from trusted sources like public radio.”
The grant will add investigative units to cover topics such as government accountability, criminal justice, the environment, healthcare and rural economic development.
The regional hubs will also facilitate coordination of breaking news and elections coverage across statewide news teams.
Investigative journalism “has been eroding at the local level as newspapers scale back," stated Nancy Barnes, NPR's senior vice president for news and editorial director. "To address this challenge, these newsrooms will hire small teams of investigative journalists who will work with station reporters on public-service investigations — stories that expose corruption, reveal health hazards and bring to light other information that the public has a right to know."
The California regional newsroom was announced in February with the hiring of managing editor Joanne Griffith.
The first regional collaboration with local public radio stations as part of NPR's Collaborative Journalism Network was the Texas newsroom, created last September. It is currently producing six live statewide newscasts each weekday.
The California newsroom will serve all 17 public radio stations across the state that broadcast in 50 cities.
All 25 public radio stations in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska, serving some 63 cities, will have access to content produced by the Midwest newsroom, which will be led by the largest public media stations in the region.