The Press Club of Metropolitan St. Louis has established a fund to spur enterprise reporting in our region.
Fellowship awards of up to $10,000 will be given to journalists who propose stories that will shine a light on an under-reported community topic or trend. The project may be investigative or explanatory in nature. The money can be used to cover expenses, travel or simply pay for a reporterâ€™s time in preparing the story.
The fellowship program is offered at a time when the regionâ€™s media outlets are suffering through the worst recession in decades and have cut their staffs and reporting budgets.
â€œWith each passing day, we see journalistic resources drying up in this community and we want to help,â€ said Press Club President Dick Weiss. â€œWe all have a stake in maintaining a vibrant press.â€
Weiss and his wife, Sally Altman, provided $5,000 to kick off the fellowship effort in memory of Weissâ€™s late parents, Richard M. and Helen Weiss, both of whom were active in local media. The Press Club matched that amount with $5,000 from its own treasury. The club also plans to raise more money for the program through fundraisers and solicitations. Weiss said he would like to see grants amounting to $50,000 in the first year â€“ perhaps spawning as many as a dozen groundbreaking stories.
â€œGreat journalism is both labor intensive and at times costly,â€ Weiss said. â€œIf we want to see reporting that genuinely improves and enhances civic life, we will have to find a way to pay for it. One way to do that is to reach into our pockets and make a donation just as we do for other civic assets, such as the Saint Louis Symphony, Art Museum, and Forest Park. In this case, the assets are our regionâ€™s talented journalists.â€
All journalists in print, broadcast, and online are eligible to submit a story idea and apply for a grant. The program is open to both full-time employees at any one of the areaâ€™s media outlets and to freelancers.
Weiss said the fellowship program could be a boon to journalists who have been recently laid off from their jobs and others who have been asked to take furloughs. â€œWe will also consider applications from full-time journalists who know their employers would not otherwise be able to give the time to do an ambitious story,â€ Weiss said. â€œOur goal is simply to increase the number of enterprise stories readers and viewers will see in local media.â€
Applications from area journalists will be reviewed by a Press Club committee. Selection criteria will include the applicantâ€™s demonstrated commitment to reporting stories with a strong local interest, the impact the proposed story will have on the community and a determination of which candidates most need the resources.
Proposals will be considered as they are submitted so that the stories can be produced on a timely basis.
More information on how to both donate to the program and apply for fellowships can be found on the Press Clubâ€™s website at stlpressclub.org