News & Politics

NPR Gets $5.5M to Support Local and Regional News

The money will go toward the organization's efforts to beef up public radio and digital news across the country.

Photograph by Ted Eytan/Flickr.

NPR announced today that it received a $5.5 million grant from philanthropists Eric and Wendy Schmidt, which will fund an expansion of NPR’s Collaborative Journalism Network (CJN) over the next three years. The network currently operates collaborative newsrooms in California, the Gulf states, Texas, and the Midwest, where NPR supports local news outlets to increase their coverage.

This is the second grant from the Schmidts (Eric is a former CEO of Google) to CJN. The previous one, in 2020, was $4.7 million and helped set up the California and Midwest collaborations. Edith Chapin, NPR’s senior vice president and editor in chief, says she’s proud of the partnership with the Schmidts and the expansion it will fund. She says more than 3,000 journalists are already involved in public media across the country in some form, and public media can be a strong source of local news.

“No other national news organization has this sort of tie-in that we have,” says Chapin. “There are lots of different business models with different organizations, but public media is all about serving the public and being in the community.”

NPR’s work is one of a few efforts by national organizations to expand access to local news. The new funds will go toward a pilot program at an existing news collaborative in New England to branch into short-form video coverage. It will also bring the Mountain West News Bureau, a group of 14 stations that already work together in Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming, under the CJN umbrella to share resources and strengthen investigative journalism.

The grant will also create a new regional newsroom for the Appalachian region, which will combine the work of at least six local stations in Kentucky and Tennessee, and probably expand into Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina. Stephen George, president and CEO of Louisville Public Media, says his station has been collaborating with four other Kentucky outlets through a local public radio network. Collaboration in this case means that George’s small team of journalists focus on statewide stories that all five outlets share, and help each other when needed. The NPR collaboration in Appalachia, George says, will help them cover stories from around the region, not just the state, and hire more staff, including a fundraiser.

“None of these stations including us would be able to stand up a seven- or eight- or nine-person newsroom in this region to focus entirely on the region,” says George. “Not without each other. And so what it does is add good contextual storytelling and reporting here in this region where there is not enough of it.”

Helen Huiskes
Editorial Fellow