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New collaboration targets post-COVID world

June 8, 2021

INN’s most ambitious editorial collaboration project thus far brings together 15 Midwestern newsrooms to uncover how the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted changes in policies and practices related to a range of issues — from health care to food insecurity to housing — and what more needs to be done.

After more than a year of confronting the challenges created by the pandemic, communities throughout the Midwest, as in other areas of the country, are reflecting on what they have learned — including how to mitigate inequities that pre-dated but were brought to light by COVID, and what adaptations need to continue after the pandemic ends.

The collaboration was made possible by new support for INN from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The funding from RWJF was flexible and allowed INN to identify the project that would most benefit member newsrooms and their audiences. The project is also being supported by INN’s Amplify News Project, whose funders include the Robert R. McCormick Foundation and the Joyce Foundation.

“The work of covering COVID-19 and its ongoing after-effects is made easier when many newsrooms work together,” said Jonathan Kealing, INN’s Chief Network Officer. “I want to thank the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for this vote of confidence in INN and its members and reiterate my thanks to our longtime partners at the McCormick and Joyce foundations, which have allowed Amplify to increase its work in collaboration in Chicago and the Midwest.”

The project’s goal is to produce high-impact, high-quality journalism, help participating newsrooms reach new audiences and unlock new partnerships and funding sources. It also continues INN’s efforts to test how collaborations can advance the field of nonprofit journalism.

In March, Amplify Collaborations Editor Sharon McGowan reached out to a half dozen newsrooms in six states (out of the roughly 40 INN members in the Midwest) to gauge interest in the project. With their feedback and guidance as the basis, all Midwest INN newsrooms were invited to submit project proposals. This is the first INN collaboration in which participants were required to identify a partner or partners to jointly produce their editorial content.

Twenty-five newsrooms submitted proposals to work in teams of two or three on their stories. So many proposals came in that INN doubled the size of the collaboration, with additional support reallocated from within the Amplify project.

The projects cover topics including the economic impact of COVID on Latino immigrants, the criminal justice system, housing and homelessness, mental health, equity in COVID testing and vaccinations, food insecurity and education. The Solutions Journalism Network is also providing funding for the education reporting.

The participating editorial teams are:

As in all INN editorial collaborations, the partners will support one another with feedback, ideas for sources and angles, and content distribution. INN also will create a distribution and promotion plan and will prepare an impact report when the project is complete.

The articles will be published over a two-week period in late June and early July 2021.

For more information about editorial collaborations, please contact Sharon McGowan or Bridget Thoreson.

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