Report for America selects The Press Democrat for a grant for reporting on the mental health effects of domestic disasters

As part of our commitment to bringing sharper, more revealing content to Sonoma County, I’m proud to partner with The Press Democrat among dozens of newsrooms across the country to receive a grant to help fund a new journalist position.

Report for America selected The Press Democrat from among hundreds of other applicants and awarded us a grant to hire a reporter to explore how traumatic events have been in the past five years–from devastating wildfires and floods to learning disorders caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Affected emotional wellness and educational gains for Sonoma County students.

It’s no secret that unprecedented challenges outside the classroom challenge our children, especially in grades K-12, which they have faced in the past half decade leading to declining academic scores.

Reading levels plummeted, graduation rates plummeted, and worse, teachers saw an increase in students with emotional and psychological problems.

The Press Democrat has been exploring this topic for the past year. Last October, on the fifth anniversary of the 2017 wildfire storm, investigative health reporter Martin Espinoza gave a special report exposing the increasing acute trauma among students reported by teachers and mental health experts.

A local survey reporting that one in six middle and high school students in Sonoma County say they are still “meaningfully feeling the effects of the wildfires in 2017,” was just one of Espinosa’s findings.

However, deeper coverage is necessary. Exploring the long-term effects of trauma on our next generation of young people was the basis for our Report for America request for a journalist who could explore the topic on a deeper level.

Over the next two years, the reporter – who we are now hiring for – will frame the challenges while pursuing solutions that can be found in other parts of the country. I think he could be one of the most important positions in our newsroom.

There are two ways you can help achieve greater success.

Firstly, if you are a journalist eager to tackle this adventurous beat or know a candidate whose skills match the expectations of our readers, please encourage them to apply at bit.ly/3Ho0gVs.

You can also contact me at rick.green@pressdemocrat.com to share your interest.

Second, Report for America pays a portion of a reporter’s salary, and the Democratic journalist must tip the scales by seeking tax-deductible contributions. I’ll have more information about this process and how you – as an individual, charity or non-profit group – can help in the very near future.

Report for America is a national nonprofit group that puts journalists in local newsrooms across the country. At a time when American newsrooms face unprecedented economic and financial challenges, the organization helps media organizations like The Press Democrat report on issues not covered and underserved communities.

We’ve given several presentations to leaders in the organization in late 2022 and recently learned of our award. We are just one of three California newsrooms to have won the grant, and I couldn’t be prouder that it will increase our ability to pursue and deliver stronger journalism to our readers and subscribers. This role will harness observational reporting and storytelling skills.

The initiative is part of a national effort by a Boston-based nonprofit news organization called The GroundTruth Project that supports emerging journalists around the world with a specific focus on social issues and public service journalism.

When I arrived as Executive Editor two years ago, I promised a new commitment to powerful journalism that makes a difference in this beautiful slice of California. This position – funded by our community and Report for America – will play a major role in keeping this pledge.

As always, thanks for reading The Press Democrat.

Richard Green is executive editor of The Press Democrat and chief content officer at parent company Sonoma Media Investments. Contact him at rick.green@pressdemocrat.com. Follow him on Twitter @EditorRAG.

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