On one end, emerging journalists will apply to be part of RFA. On the other, newsrooms will apply for a journalist. RFA will pay 50% of that journalist's salary, with the newsroom paying 25% and local donors paying the other 25%. That reporter will work in the local newsroom for a year, with the opportunity to renew.
Panelist Jasmine Crighton likes the idea. She said it’s important for newsrooms to hire more journalists to cover communities. She said if this is what it takes, then she’s all for giving it a try. And Crighton said the program is looking for newsrooms than can mentor young journalists, which should benefit the news industry down the road.
Crighton said some naysayers consider the plan nothing but a scheme by a liberal think tank. That comment irks panelist Rich Egger, who said newsroom leaders don’t ask job applicants about their political beliefs – they want to know whether the person can cut it as a journalist. He said a proposal to add journalists should benefit all newsrooms, especially if they’re on the hook for just 25% of the new reporter’s salary.
Will Buss said the newspaper he worked at before coming to WIU just cut more of its reporting staff. Some of the journalists had been with the paper for ten or twenty years. Buss said too many newsroom staffs have been cut in recent years so perhaps some “outside the box” thinking – like the RFA proposal -- is needed to possibly reverse that trend.
Jasmine Crighton is News Director of NEWS3 at Western Illinois University and Will Buss is the Director of Student Publications at WIU.