Letter From The President: Why We Are Expanding The WFPL Newsroom
NOTE: Below is a letter from LPM President Stephen George announcing the expansion of WFPL's newsroom. See more about it here.
We are living in a time of interconnected crises: in public health and our economy, racism and the absence of justice, political leadership and the erosion of institutions. Woven through each is a crisis of information, or perhaps more accurately, a crisis of mis- and disinformation.
We have watched lies proliferate in our politics and disinformation spread uncontrolled across social media, helping malignant conspiracy theories take root. We have seen public officials turn harder against transparency in a time when it is desperately needed. A pandemic is ravaging our city and nation, while under-resourced news organizations try to explain its complexities to an anxious public. News organizations — including Louisville Public Media — need to act quickly to be more representative of the communities we serve.
Lies run sprints while truth limps along in an ecosystem designed to reward the incendiary. At Louisville Public Media, we have a role in stopping that. That’s why we are investing in a bigger and stronger newsroom by adding five more reporters and a Vice President of Content, starting today.
Growing Civic News
Despite eroding trust in national media, Americans still generally trust their local news outlets. But we have to fight the misconception that local news isn’t sustainable in the digital age despite its value to our community.
We have to work to keep and grow trust. We have to continue to invest in civic journalism, or the idea that strong local reporting is core to the democratic process and civic engagement. We have to put facts and fairness upfront in our coverage. We have to bring more representative voices onto our airwaves, newsletters, podcasts and websites.
This kind of meaningful and sustainable growth requires investment. At LPM, we are committing $1.5 million over three years to this expansion thanks to our community-supported model. This investment will result in more and deeper coverage of city government, politics and leadership; business, workforce and economic development; public health and COVID-19; and race, racism, equity and access in our city. These will complement our current coverage of city and state politics, education, environment, the arts, health, and Southern Indiana.
We are focusing on these new topics because they tell us essential truths about the future of our city, engage people in the democratic process and speak to what we’ve learned over the past year: that without more voices at the table, we can’t be better. We have been listening to you and what you need from us, and we’ll continue to.
With an expanded WFPL newsroom, we will provide significantly enhanced daily and deep-dive coverage that will support more local stories on broadcast and online, grow our daily morning news podcast, and strengthen our newsletter and other digital offerings.
We will hire a health reporter to shine a light on the challenges and opportunities our city faces in the wake of the pandemic, and a breaking news reporter to ensure we deliver the most timely news to our audience across all platforms.
We will establish a city team — including reporters covering city politics and government; business, workforce and development; and race and equity — to bring range and flexibility to our coverage, providing a structure for exploring the key issues shaping our civic future and the ways they intersect.
Amina Elahi will lead that team as our City Editor. For more than three years, she has led our coverage of city government and politics. She is a journalistic force who pushes for answers, sees around corners in policymaking, gives voice to humans affected by policy, and enlightens our audience on the complexities of local government.
Under Amina, the city team will be dedicated to coverage of major civic issues, including the intersections of politics, government, housing, community development and the workforce, race and racism, access, and equity. At this pivotal moment for our city, the four-person team will examine the inequities that exist in our government, economy and society. Through all of these beats, there will be a focus on covering major city initiatives through a lens of race, gender and ethnicity.
We will also add a Vice President of Content to manage and oversee all LPM content and audience development operations across services. This will help to get all of the work we’re doing to the largest possible audience that can benefit from it.
As we said in our Report to the Community on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, it’s imperative that we embrace diversity in our storytelling and news decisions. We have committed to hiring more Black journalists and other journalists of color, which we will do in this expansion. We have both the opportunity and responsibility to move quickly to become more representative, and we will do just that.
Today, we will begin the hiring process for four new reporters covering the following beats: city government and politics; race and equity; health; and breaking news. If you are interested in one of these jobs, learn more here.
As in all our work at LPM, we are expanding our newsroom with our audience — both current and future — at the center. We are a public service organization, and that is how we will continue to approach the news of our city. Additional reporting will be focused on helping listeners and readers understand policies and opportunities, make decisions about their lives and what we share together, and get involved in setting a course for the future of Louisville.
As we grow, we want to know what you think we should cover. Share your thoughts here.
As of today, we have more than $1 million on hand to support this expansion. Six donors have committed funding to date. Among them are:
- David Jones, Jr. and Mary Gwen Wheeler
- Brooke and Matthew Barzun
- The Sociable Weaver Foundation
- Heather McHold and Stephen Campbell
- Mike and Kathy Davis
At a time of sustained disinvestment in civic news, I am proud that these Louisville-based supporters have committed to LPM’s growth. They are among the nearly 14,000 members of LPM who ensure we remain strong — even, and perhaps especially, during this pandemic.
We will continue fundraising for the expansion in the coming months to complete our goal. We will also rely on the continued support of our members to sustain our expanded newsroom over time. If you’d like to support our newsroom’s work, please do so here.
Our opportunity is to build on a newsroom that feeds civic learning and understanding, and to make our reporting available to everyone who needs it — core to LPM’s mission and vision. We’ll continue striving to do that.
Stephen George is president and general manager of Louisville Public Media.