October 20, 2022
Today, the Institute for Nonprofit News’ Rural News Network completed publication of Breaking Point, its four-piece collaborative series on health inequities in rural America. Reported from communities in distinct parts of the country – Hawaii, North Carolina and Northern California – this collaboration showed that despite differing demographics and landscapes, the core challenge was the same: inadequate access to quality health care.
The journalists covering these human-centric stories are locals, so they experience firsthand the same struggles they are writing about – finding it nearly impossible to see specialists in person or to get a strong enough internet signal for a virtual visit, if that’s even an option for their condition.
The Rural News Network (RNN) launched earlier this year to surface and report on the most pressing issues facing rural America by leveraging the expertise of 60 newsrooms of the INN Network seeking to serve rural communities in 30 states. (The INN Network extends across 49 states, parts of Canada and the Caribbean.)
Breaking Point was led by The Daily Yonder – the only national news organization for rural people and places – in partnership with Carolina Public Press, Honolulu Civil Beat and Shasta Scout and with support from the National Institute for Health Care Management (NIHCM) Foundation.
Like all RNN collaborations, the initiative entailed a selective process to find the right mix of newsrooms for the topic and was facilitated by an editorial lead, in this case veteran journalist Sharon McGowan. All participating news outlets were paid a stipend.
“Collaborations such as ‘Breaking Point’ allow relatively small nonprofit newsrooms to expand their audience and magnify their impact,” said McGowan. “They also create valuable relationships among participating newsrooms that can extend long beyond the original project. And they shed light on the common challenges facing communities across the country, as well as solutions to address them.”
Breaking Point is RNN’s third successful news collaboration, following projects that centered on Indigenous communities led by ICT, formerly known as Indian Country Today, made possible with the support of the Walton Family Foundation, and the two-part “Tapped Out: Power and water justice in the rural West,” one part made possible by a grant from The Water Desk with support from Ensia and INN’s Amplify News Project, the other supported by the Water Foundation.
Annelise Pierce, founder, editor and community reporter at Shasta Scout, found that working with series editor McGowan was helpful for connecting across teams. “I’ve so appreciated the way Sharon was able to respect the individual work while holding space for the collaboration. She really kept things moving forward with just the right level of support and made this project possible for our tiny newsroom.”
In addition to providing editorial, financial and graphic resources, INN supported the collaboration with a Slack channel for reporters to share information and with distribution opportunities, including a republication arrangement with the daily KHN Morning Briefing newsletter from Kaiser Health News and Public Health Watch – a nonprofit, nonpartisan investigative news organization that reports on the nation’s health infrastructure and policies.
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