Wyoming will benefit from a dedicated education reporter after a national news nonprofit selected WyoFile as one of 64 newsrooms to receive funding and other support.

Report for America selected WyoFile for its next round of partners. WyoFile will receive one of  300 nationwide reporter positions. The initiative seeks to counter the collapse of the traditional news landscape and address under-reported beats by placing reporters in local newsrooms.

“With the local news system shrinking, it’s important that we both put more and more reporters in the field — and that we help newsrooms that are working toward becoming more sustainable, and more grounded in the community,” Steven Waldman, president and co-founder of Report for America, said in a statement.

Report for America now seeks “talented, ethical, insanely hard-working, gutsy, open-minded, service-oriented journalists” to apply for the positions. It will pay half the reporter’s salary as part of a goal to “inform communities and hold powerful institutions accountable.”

Education is top-of-mind for a huge swath of Wyoming and WyoFile’s readership right now, said Matthew Copeland, WyoFile’s chief executive and editor.

“Wyoming is wrestling with a $500 million structural education-budget deficit and the years-long legislative battle over education funding is coming to a head,” he said. “Meanwhile, the pandemic is reshaping our approach to education. Parents, students and educators have more — and more pressing — questions about school policy than at any other point in memory. They need and deserve the facts. This partnership will help us provide them.”

WyoFile Managing Editor Katie Klingsporn said the addition of a reporter will help flesh out a bare-bones staff. “Between the budget crisis and COVID coming down the line … we found that [education] was an increasingly urgent issue we didn’t have the resources to cover,” she said.

Nationwide effort

Report for America — founded in 2017 as an initiative of the GroundTruth Project — placed 59 reporters in newsrooms in 2019. This year it expanded that number to 226 and expects to place 1,000 reporters in newsrooms by 2024. Reporters will spend two years in their host newsrooms with the potential to extend RFA support for a third 12 months.

Half of the positions this year will be in nonprofit newsrooms. Aspiring reporters will apply to Report for America; the nonprofit will then work with newsrooms to place reporters.

A lot has changed in newsrooms since Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell chased a big story in director Howard Hawks’ 1940 film “His Girl Friday.” (Columbia Pictures)

In the region in 2021, Report for America will support a photographer for the Bozeman Daily Chronicle to cover rural Montana, another for the online Colorado Sun who will concentrate on visual storytelling across that state and an education reporter for the Idaho Statesman. A RFA corps member currently works for the Buffalo Bulletin.

RFA concentrates on newsrooms that demonstrate the most compelling gaps in coverage. This year the organization doubled the placement of reporters in newsrooms owned by people of color. Elsewhere in the country, the group funded reporters to cover food insecurity in Arkansas, agribusiness in Illinois and housing in Wisconsin, among other topics.

Report for America calls its initiative a national service program in part because participants undertake a community project as part of their employment. The program places aspiring, trained journalists who are at the beginning of their careers and this year will include mid-career reporters as well. Report for America supports the reporters with training, networking and mentorship.

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WyoFile is looking for a reporter who will work with WyoFile’s in-depth mission in the Equality State, Klingsporn said. The hire will have “the ability to contextualize and digest really complicated and nuanced information and situations and dig deep into issues,” she said. He or she must be a good listener, a curious person “and someone who has a flare for writing and narrative style.”

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  1. I’m happy to learn about this development in reporting about education issues in Wyoming.

    I’m 76 years old and I moved to Wyoming 5 years ago. One of the things that attracted me here was the high level of spending on education- highest in the nation! Who could find fault with that?

    Now that I’ve acclimated myself to the altitude, I’ve come to realize that the high level of “Education” spending is actually a ruse to fund construction of new buildings. Literally a make-work project for otherwise unemployed construction firms. We have been duped.

    Buildings are not education in my experience. They are just buildings-they teach nothing to students.

    I think my home state needs to figure out a way to redirect this construction money to truly educational use and put off construction projects until more important needs are met.

    For example, If we were to double teacher’s salaries (see Ebenezer Scrooge), we could get the very best young teachers in the country and that is not to belittle Wyoming teachers, but to illustrate one way to improve things. (Full disclosure: I am not affiliated with any teachers or teachers’ organizations, and never have been.)

  2. Congratulations WyoFile and Mr. Copeland on your initiative and vision! A very exciting opportunity. We can’t wait to see what comes next in this education department, so crucial at this time. And thanks for dated-but-delightful His Girl Friday reference 🙂
    Susan Lasher & Chris Pfister