The Inland Press Foundation has awarded grants totaling more than $100,000 to newspapers in Illinois and Kansas to strengthen their local news reporting.
Inland launched the Community News Grants earlier this year. The grants fund reporting on critical topics such as schools and education, local government, health care, the environment, and infrastructure.
The grants cover half the cost of adding a reporter to a newspaper’s staff. The newspaper pays the remaining half of that salary. Inland funds the grants for two years.
The grants are in response to the dramatic decline in the number of journalists at daily and nondaily newspapers in the United States. The number of reporters at U.S. newspapers dropped by more than 50 percent over the past decade.
The foundation began accepting applications from daily and nondaily newspapers in the two states in January. After reviewing the applications, grants were awarded to two newspapers in each state. Grant recipients in Illinois were the Chicago Crusader, in Chicago, and the Prairie Press in Paris; Kansas recipients were the Council Grove Republican, and the Eureka Herald.
Inland Foundation President Marc Wilson said the initial round of grants were a pilot intended to test the response from newspapers to the program. “We believed the best way to make an impact in these small communities was to use the already existing experience and infrastructure of daily and weekly newspapers,” Wilson said. He added, “We were pleased with the positive response from the newspapers in these states and their ability to quickly add reporting muscle that made an impact in their communities.”
Ben Lueken, manager of the Prairie Press, said the grant has allowed the paper to expand its coverage. Lueken said, “Without the addition of the reporter, made possible by the Inland Community News Grant, important stories would go unwritten and unread by Edgar County Residents.”
Inland partnered with press associations in Illinois and Kansas to promote the program. Inland Executive Director Tom Slaughter thanked the Illinois Press Association and the Kansas Press Association for their support. Slaughter said, “These two associations are valued partners, and we thank them for their promotion of the program to their members. We could not have rolled this out without their full help and encouragement.”
Slaughter said donations to the Community News Grant program may be made to the Inland Press Foundation at P.O. Box 3790, Lawrence, KS, 66046. Donations are tax deductible.
The Inland Press Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit incorporated in Illinois. Over the last 40 years, the foundation has played a prominent and active role in organizing and funding programs to provide research and educational services to the American newspaper industry, with a special focus on independent and family-owned newspapers.
The Illinois Press Association was founded in 1865 as an organization for Illinois publishers. It has evolved into one of the largest state newspaper associations in the country, representing more than 400 daily and weekly newspapers.
The Kansas Press Association was organized in 1863 to serve and advance the interests of Kansas news publications. The association provides member services, such as training seminars, publications, marketing, convention, legislative representation, and legal and technology hotlines; as well as client services, including newspaper ad placement services, advertising networks and news release distribution.