ENTERPRISE JOURNALISM GRANTS
Press Club of Metropolitan St. Louis Enterprise Journalism Grants
In 2009, The Press Club of Metropolitan St. Louis established a fund to spur enterprise reporting in our region. The organization offered awards of up to $10,000 to journalists who proposed stories that would shine a light on an under-reported topic in our region.
The project could be investigative or explanatory in nature with the requirement that the story or stories be presented locally in print, online on radio or television. The money could be used to cover expenses, travel or simply pay for a reporter's time in preparing the story.
The fellowship program was offered at a time when the region's media outlets were suffering through the worst recession in decades and had cut their staffs and reporting budgets. Six years later, that is still the case.
"With each passing day, we see journalistic resources drying up in this community and we want to help," Press Club President Dick Weiss said in announcing the grant program. "We all have a stake in maintaining a vibrant press."
Weiss and his wife, Sally Altman, provided $5,000 to kick off the fellowship effort in memory of Weiss's late parents, Richard M. and Helen Weiss, both of whom were active in local media. The Press Club matched that amount with $5,000 from its own treasury. Over the years, the club raised more money for the program through fundraisers and solicitations.
"Great journalism is both labor intensive and at times costly," Weiss said. "If we want to see reporting that genuinely improves and enhances civic life, we will have to find a way to pay for it. One way to do that is to reach into our pockets and make a donation just as we do for other civic assets, such as the Saint Louis Symphony, Art Museum, and Forest Park. In this case, the assets are our region's talented journalists."
All journalists in print, broadcast, and online are eligible to submit a story idea and apply for a grant. The program is open to both full-time employees at any one of the area's media outlets and to freelancers. Weiss said the fellowship program could be a boon to journalists who have been recently laid off from their jobs and others who have been asked to take furloughs. "We will also consider applications from full-time journalists who know their employers would not otherwise be able to give the time to do an ambitious story," Weiss said. "Our goal is simply to increase the number of enterprise stories readers and viewers will see in local media."
A Press Club committee reviews applications from area journalists. Selection criteria includes the applicant's demonstrated commitment to reporting stories with a strong local interest, the impact the proposed story will have on the community and a determination of which candidates most need the resources. Proposals are considered as they are submitted so that the stories can be produced on a timely basis.
The enterprise grants have spawned the following stories:
- Ready or Not: Nancy Fowler's look at the appalling lack of disaster preparedness in the St. Louis region. Published in the St. Louis Beacon
- Downsizing the American Dream: Mary Leonard and photographer Jerry Naunheim's examination of the region's shrinking middle class. St. Louis Beacon.
- Under the Radar: C.D. Stelzer investigated East Side player Gary Fears, his diverse business associates and their ties to a mysterious Ukrainian aircraft. Focus Midwest, an online journal.
- Ten Years Later Are We Safer?: Jason Rosenbaum and Mike Sherry examined how federal anti-terrorism funds were spent in our region. St. Louis Beacon.
- Rebirth of Immigration in St. Louis: Philip Dine reported on how St. Louis has become a hub for immigrants including Bosnians, Hispanics and refugees from around the world. St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- Flanagan South Pipeline Raises Concerns: Tina Casagrand wrote about a pipeline project much like the controversial Keystone project that has been flying beneath the regulatory radar. St. Louis Beacon
- Two Worlds: Stephen Deere and photographer J.B. Forbes chronicled the efforts of Dr. Subbarao Polineni , a wealthy St. Louis hand surgeon who is determined to build a school that will house and educate orphans in India for decades to come. As a child, he was just like many of them. The school is barely half-finished, and Polineni, a cancer survivor, is struggling to ensure that it will outlast him. St. Louis Post-Dispatch
… and coming soon
The Battle To Stem An American Epidemic: Reporter Stu Durando will chronicle the efforts of St. Louis Children's Hospital to help children and their families deal with gun violence in our community. SLCH handles more gunshot wounds than any children's hospital in the nation. The project will look at children who are injured or killed by guns from the perspective of trauma surgeon Martin Keller and other hospital staff. St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The Importance of Early Childhood Education: As increasing attention is now being paid to the benefits of early childhood education, documentary filmmaker Barbara Shuman is in the process of producing a documentary on the highly effective and successful early childhood education program at the University City Children's Center.