Monday, September 17, 2012

Enhancing public policy reporting

The Public Policy Forum is launching a new project this fall that is somewhat distinct from our usual portfolio of public policy research, facilitation and deliberation.  It's called the "Excellence in Public Policy Reporting" fellowship, and we see it as our small contribution to enhancing both the quality and quantity of local government reporting in Milwaukee.

The project - which emanates from a grant by the Milwaukee-based Argosy Foundation - is a partnership between the Forum, the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service (an online news service that focuses on Milwaukee neighborhoods), and Marquette University's Diederich College of Communication

Marquette will select two of its journalism graduate students each year to serve as Public Policy Reporting Fellows, working 10 to 15 hours per week for NNS covering local government news that is of interest to Milwaukee's low-income neighborhoods.  During the first semester of their year-long fellowship, the students will cover one or two topical news stories per week, while the second semester will be devoted to lengthier, investigative-type projects.  The Forum's role will be to use its knowledge of local government committee agendas and proceedings to guide the fellows on story ideas, as well as to advise them on contacts and research.

The project is aimed at improving the public policy reporting skills of budding journalists by exposing them to the halls of government and a professional journalism environment while in graduate school, and by adding the perspective of Forum staff who make their living researching and analyzing government data and programs.  We also hope that it will foment interest among journalism students in pursuing a career in local government reporting, as opposed to some other specialty.

In addition, we hope the project will fill a void by producing meaningful news coverage of local government issues that otherwise would have gone uncovered.  This is not a criticism of our traditional local news organizations, but a recognition that many have seen their news-gathering resources shrink.  In fact, our ultimate hope is that news stories written by the graduate fellows and published by NNS will be of such high quality and interest that they will be picked up by larger news organizations.

Additional information about the new fellowship can be accessed in this media release by the NNS. Also, details on the Forum's other fellowship - the Norman N. Gill Civic Engagement Fellowship - can be found here.


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