Community Foundation of Greater Memphis has awarded MLK50: Justice Through Journalism a $10,000 grant to continue reporting that exposes the causes of poverty, while empowering residents to address systemic issues so they can thrive.
The grant coincides with NewsMatch, a national matching gift campaign for newsrooms across the country that multiplies donations made through Dec. 31. NewsMatch, which has helped to raise nearly $15 million for nonprofit newsrooms since 2016, is supported by Knight Foundation, Democracy Fund, and other national and local funding partners.
“MLK50: Justice Through Journalism reports on critical information and challenges its readers on issues facing our community — and does so with integrity and urgency,” said Robert M. Fockler, president of Community Foundation of Greater Memphis. “Transparency, and equity and inclusion are among our core values, and the foundation is proud to invest in independent, Memphis-based journalism.”
The grant will help the Memphis-based ProPublica Local Reporting Network newsroom continue results-driven investigations and issues-based reporting. For example, in 2019, MLK50-ProPublica published Profiting From The Poor, a series widely credited for shifting the tenor of the national conversation on medical debt.
As a result, Memphis’ largest hospital system, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, said it would raise the minimum wage it pays employees, expand its financial assistance policy for hospital care and stop suing its own employees for unpaid medical debts. Moreover, the hospital has since erased the debt of more than 6,400 patients and reduced the bills of 1,000 more.
Recently, Knoxville-based TeamHealth decided to drastically change its collections practices after MLK50’s founding editor Wendi C. Thomas started asking questions. Now, TeamHealth is no longer suing patients and says it won’t pursue lawsuits it has already filed. The private equity-owned physician staffing firm also announced a new discount policy for uninsured patients that would reduce the cost “up to 100% when necessary.”
“We are thankful for the local vote of confidence in our reporting that is helping to make a difference in Memphis,” said MLK50 managing editor Deborah Douglas. “The work this team has produced in a little over two years underscores the need for a people-centered approach to journalism.”
Moreover, the year 2020 will be pivotal, as the U.S. Census takes off and the nation elects a new president, according to Douglas, who said the investment will fuel partnerships to produce even stronger reporting results.
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.