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Sun-Times wins Report for America grant to hire neighborhood reporter

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The Chicago Sun-Times was announced Thursday as a recipient of a Report for America grant, allowing the newspaper to hire a reporter to bolster its neighborhood coverage on the city’s South and West sides.

The Sun-Times was one of eight news organizations chosen from more than 85 applicants nationwide by the nonprofit Report for America, which launched last year with the goal of placing service-oriented journalists in under-covered communities to rebuild trust in the media.

“This grant will enable us to broaden our scope of neighborhood coverage with a specific focus on communities that need fair and balanced reporting the most,” Sun-Times Editor-in-Chief Chris Fusco said. “We’re hoping the Report for America reporter can embed herself or himself on the South and West sides to spotlight the many challenges those communities face — while also telling their success stories.”

Half of each RFA reporter’s salary is paid by the nonprofit, and the other half is covered by each newsroom in combination with local philanthropists. The group has already deployed reporters at three news outlets across the Appalachian region, and is aiming to place 1,000 reporters in community newsrooms over the next five years.

“We’re thrilled to be working with the Sun-Times,” RFA co-founder and president Steven Waldman said. “The judges chose the Sun-Times not only because they were impressed with what [the paper is] up to generally but because [it] had such a compelling plan to help residents in under-covered parts of Chicago to be better heard and better understood.”

A study released last month by the Center for Media Engagement found that most South and West side residents “felt underrepresented or poorly represented by Chicago news media, but are also the most interested in getting involved in Chicago news organizations.”

The Sun-Times’ RFA reporter will focus on crime, housing, education and environmental issues in those parts of the city, as well as business development, infrastructure improvements and social-service interventions.

Applications for the one-year position — which is slated to start in June and can be extended to a second year — are now open at www.reportforamerica.org.