MLK50: Justice Through Journalism has been selected by Report for America as one of 164 newsrooms to host an emerging journalist in 2020, as the 2-year-old outlet deepens its coverage of poverty, power and policy in Memphis.

The award-winning website joins host news organizations serving local communities in 46 states, including 44 outlets in the South.

“We’re excited to welcome a new team member because there are so many stories about the lived experience of Memphians to tell,” said Deborah Douglas, MLK50’s managing editor. “These are the kinds of stories that empower readers and expose policies that make it hard for people to make ends meet.”

The latest poverty numbers make the case:

Memphis has a poverty rate of 27.8%, up from 24.6% in 2017, according to the 2019 Memphis Poverty Fact Sheet published by Dr. Elena Delavega at the University of Memphis School of Social Work. The poverty rate for blacks — the majority of residents — is even higher at 33.8%. And child poverty in Memphis stands at 44.9%.

“In 2018, Memphis continued in second place [behind Detroit] in both overall poverty and child poverty among large cities with populations greater than 500,000,” according to Delavega.

Report for America is a national service program that places talented, emerging journalists in local news organizations for one to two years. RFA covers half of the journalist’s salary and the local outlet and local funders cover the rest.

“We offer a pretty simple fix for news holes in communities throughout the country — local reporters on the ground, who hold leaders accountable and report on undercovered issues,” said Steven Waldman, president and co-founder of Report for America.

“We offer a pretty simple fix for news holes in communities throughout the country — local reporters on the ground, who hold leaders accountable and report on undercovered issues.”

Steven Waldman, president and co-founder of Report for America

Highlights of 2020–2021 host newsrooms:

  • Winners include 69 daily newspapers, 39 digital-only sites, 39 public radio stations, 12 local TV stations and five nondaily papers.
  • Nonprofit newsrooms account for 47% of the total.

The program announced the winning newsrooms Monday — full list here — and will select corps members in a separate application process for journalists.

Right when the nation needs the clarity of journalists’ lens, newsroom employment has dropped 25 percent in a decade-long trend, according to Pew Research. Report For America aims to alleviate the loss in this initiative by The GroundTruth Project.

Applications for reporting slots are being accepted now until Jan. 31. Journalists and their newsroom pairings will be announced in April and begin work in June. Those interested in working with MLK50: Justice Through Journalism through Report For America should reach out via email at

The dramatic expansion of the corps was made possible by leadership support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Facebook Journalism Project, the Joyce Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Google News Initiative, the Ford Foundation, Heising-Simons Foundation, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, the Tow Foundation and many more.

This story is brought to you by MLK50: Justice Through Journalism, a nonprofit newsroom focused on poverty, power and public policy. Support independent journalism by making a tax-deductible donation today. MLK50 is also supported by the Surdna Foundation, the Southern Documentary Project at the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and Community Change. Sign up for our newsletter.

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