ANNUAL REPORT 2019

We are all about restoring journalism from the ground up.

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The crisis in journalism has become a crisis for democracies globally.

At a time when the financial model for journalism is broken, more and more communities are losing trust in journalists, and citizens struggle to discern truth from fiction on social media, a new approach to local and global reporting is needed now more than ever.

At GroundTruth, we’re working hard to rise to this enormous challenge. We grew our programs and operations by 400% in 2019 to train and support more emerging journalists reporting on under-covered communities because the need is great and growing by the day.

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In 2019, we supported 83 emerging journalists in 14 countries, 28 states, and Puerto Rico reaching an estimated 100M people through our 65 editorial partners.

And we’re just getting started.

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On The Ground

In 14 countries, 28 states & Puerto Rico
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Puerto Rico
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Oregon
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New Mexico
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Tennessee
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Wisconsin
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Montana
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North Dakota
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Wyoming
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Florida
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Massachusetts
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Louisiana
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New Jersey
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Hawaii
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Connecticut
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Illinois
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Utah
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New York
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Washington
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Michigan
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Mississippi
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North Carolina
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Kentucky
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Nepal
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Malawi
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Israel/Palestine
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Cuba
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Poland
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Hungary
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Namibia
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Holy Night: How an Idaho church is adapting to a growing demographic

Beneath the golden-framed image were dozens of roses and candles left by parishioners and above were twisted, red and green curtains that stood for the colors of the Mexican flag. At the cue of the priest, they sang “Las Mañanitas” (“Little Mornings”), a traditional birthday song, and continued with hymns for 30 minutes straight to signal the start of the Feast of Guadalupe.  

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No shower for 23 days: U.S. citizen says conditions were so bad that he almost self-deported

Francisco Erwin Galicia, a Dallas-born U.S. citizen, spent 23 days in the custody of U.S. Customs and Border Protection in conditions that made him so desperate he almost opted to self-deport. Galicia says he lost 26 pounds during that time in a South Texas immigrant detention center because officers didn’t provide him with enough food.  

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How bad teeth and a lack of dental care can lead to discrimination and poverty

Report for America corps member and Fresno Bee reporter Manuela Tobias brought to light a story about poverty and the lack of access to dental care in California. “In the U.S., there is one unspoken barrier that can do lifelong damage: Bad teeth,” she writes.  

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Judge Dawn Gentry faces misconduct charges.

Sexual propositions, an annoying guitar and alcohol in the office. This is not your average public courtroom tale. The state investigated Kenton County Family Court Judge Dawn Gentry who now faces nine charges that accuse her of using sex, campaign contributions and retaliation as tools in her judgeship, according to documents released by the state. Report for America corps member Julia Fair uncovers this scandal.  

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The high cost of poor defense

There’s a high cost for poor defense in Maine. Seven months ago, the 6th Amendment Center revealed that attorneys could have over-billed Maine $2.2 million for defending the state’s poor. More than a dozen public records requests later, Report for America corps member Samantha Hogan’s investigation for Pine Tree Watch uncovered sweeping errors in the financial oversight of the Maine Commission on Indigent Legal Services. Multiple state investigations have been launched as Maine considers a public defender system.  

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McDowell county food bank trying out hydro-panels for clean water needs

In a county of 22,000 people, access to clean water can be a challenge due to outdated infrastructure, a shrinking tax base, and a lack of oversight. One community food bank is trying something different, writes Report for America corps member Emily Allen, and has installed a set of hydro-panels that will produce clean water for the McDowell County community.  

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Not everyone has a vote in the world’s largest democracy

Maroof Azam, a 24-year-old mechanic, dropped his tools to accost a man who was passing by his store. The person in question was a volunteer for a smartphone app that tracked missing voters. “Did you receive my voter card yet?” Azam asked, his hands blackened with soot from the bike he was repairing. “No, you are rejected,” the volunteer said. Azam’s face turned ashen as he responded: “I am Indian—at least I should be allowed to vote.”  

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The slow death of Colombia’s peace movement

The sun hadn’t yet risen when Yirley Velasco heard her daughter scream. The girl had woken to use the restroom, but a noise at the entrance to the family’s one-story home pulled her instead to the front door. Wedged underneath it was a white envelope tied with a black ribbon. The implication of the delivery was clear: such packages typically signify a death in the community in Colombia.  

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Targeting outsiders in Italy

Matteo Salvini, former Deputy Prime Minister of Italy, made his political career out of denouncing the “threat” that immigration represents to the identity of white, Christian, Europeans. In small towns across the country, his message is resonating with an entire generation of young people who seem to know more about what they are against (immigrants, secularism, abortion) than what they are for. They call themselves “identitarians.”  

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Meet the intellectual founder of Brazil’s far right

“Sitting across from Olavo de Carvalho, I saw that he had already set up his computer to film our exchange, his laptop camera framing my face. (He records all his interviews with reporters, whom he calls ‘enemies of the people,’ often releasing them on YouTube. These are then spread by his followers, with titles such as ‘Olavo humiliates journalist.’)”  

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A lens on hope from Rwanda to Haiti

The winding journey from Port-au-Prince brought cooler temperatures and Mussa wraps his arms more tightly around his jean jacket. He closes his eyes and inhales deeply. “It smells like Rwanda,” Mussa Uwitonze says, exhaling. Rwanda is home.  

Report
for
America
Local journalism, national service

Only a few years ago, Report for America was just a vision: to reimagine local reporting as a public service. In 2019, that vision became more of a reality than ever before.

Only a few years ago, Report for America was just a vision: to reimagine local reporting as a public service. In 2019, that vision became more of a reality than ever before.

A rapidly growing corps

3 in 2017
11 in 2018
59 in 2019
225 in 2020
1000 in 2024
3 Reporters in 2017 to 1000 in 2024
We are taking on news deserts at scale
200%
average increase in reporting on target beats and communities
40%
corps members identify as people of color
70%
corps members identify as women
$800,000+
in community support raised by local newsrooms
1/3
corps members reporting in states they call home

Making an Impact

Michelle Liu

Mississippi Today in Mississippi
Criminal justice and public policy in Mississippi
Michelle Liu
Michelle Liu

More people died in Mississippi prisons in August 2018 than in any other month over the prior six years. More than a year later, the inmates’ families and advocates continue their quest for answers. Michelle Liu offers a timeline of prison deaths and interviews grieving family members who are still searching for the truth.

Pascal Sabino

Block Club Chicago in Illinois
Austin and North Lawndale neighborhoods of Chicago’s West Side
Pascal Sabino
Pascal Sabino

For nine days after a mass shooting, a mother was blocked by cops from seeing her son who had been shot eight times. The sheriff’s office acknowledged that the delay was one big mistake, after Block Club reached out.

Mara Abbott

Buffalo Bulletin in Wyoming
Energy production industry in Johnson County
Mara Abbott
Mara Abbott

In her On The Ground Dispatch for USA Today, Mara Abbott, who went from U.S. Olympian to a reporter at the Buffalo Bulletin in Wyoming, illustrates how much of a big deal weekly newspaper distribution is in this small town.
“When a flat tire on the highway delayed a recent Wednesday delivery, one man came back three times to check on the paper’s status before our receptionist decided to post a note written in pink highlighter on the door.”

Risa Johnson

Desert Sun in California
Native American issues in Riverside and San Bernardino
Risa Johnson
Risa Johnson

Risa Johnson teaches 9th and 10th graders at the Noli Indian School about journalism and helping them create a newspaper: https://nolinativenews.com/
“Beyond helping my students produce stories, I want to teach them media literacy skills so they know how to find real news and understand its value. I also want to encourage them to simply be curious. I want them to have fun while doing it all.”

The
GroundTruth
Project
Global stories, from the ground up

This year’s GroundTruth fellows were undeterred, taking on one of our most ambitious and hard-hitting projects to date. from rising authoritarianism to post-genocide reconciliation.

GroundTruth is proud that our fellow’s work has elevated the voices of local communities to global conversations, and created real impact.

This year’s GroundTruth fellows were undeterred, taking on one of our most ambitious and hard-hitting projects to date. from rising authoritarianism to post-genocide reconciliation.

GroundTruth is proud that our fellow’s work has elevated the voices of local communities to global conversations, and created real impact.

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7 reporting projects, Democracy Undone with Atlantic Magazine, Ending the Age of AIDS with Time, and Camera Kids
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8 awards including an Emmy, a Webby Award for Interactive of the Year, and Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award
50%
GroundTruth fellows reporting in countries they call home
80%
GroundTruth fellows identify as women
24
GroundTruth fellows supported

13 Global Editorial Partners

Making a Global Impact

Mussa Uwitonze

Film Fellow, Rwanda
Using photography as a tool for healing. Bringing together genocide perpetrators and survivors
Mussa Uwitonze
Mussa Uwitonze

“Photography can help you tell your story… and share it with the world. That can be like a medicine. That can heal someone.”

Letícia Duarte

Democracy Undone Fellow, Brazil
Weaponizing fear and the rise of authoritarianism in Brazil
Letícia Duarte
Letícia Duarte

“It was the toughest interview I’ve ever done. But I kept reporting. It’s what a journalist does. I wanted to listen because I wanted to understand. I wanted my readers and listeners to understand, too.”

Soumya Shankar

Democracy Undone Fellow, India
From the state of Assam to Capitol Hill
Soumya Shankar
Soumya Shankar

Democracy Undone fellow Soumya Shankar presented her insights on India’s controversial Citizenship Law during a Congressional briefing on Capitol Hill. As part of the Authoritarian’s Playbook podcast, Shankar visited the state of Assam, where she reported on the plight of the 1.9 million people, most of them Muslims, left effectively stateless after a national registry of citizens identified them as “illegal immigrants,” despite being born in India. Listen.

Taking Home an Emmy

The Last Generation
News and Documentary Emmy Award in the Outstanding New Approaches: Documentary category
Taking Home an Emmy
Taking Home an Emmy

The GroundTruth Project and its partners were recognized with an Emmy for our work on The Last Generation, an immersive multimedia project about climate change through the eyes of children. A curriculum developed by PBS Learning Media based on the reporting is now accessible to one million classrooms across the country.

Powering
GroundTruth’s
Mission

2019 Donor Recognition

We want to recognize and thank our numerous supporters who gave in 2019, without whom this groundbreaking work would not be possible.
Make a Gift Today
Jeremy Fischer,
Supporter from Lincoln, Nebraska
“Democracy is fragile, and truthful reporting must be supported if our democratic institutions are to survive.”
Dan and Chris Quinn,
Report for America and The Advocate
“As a career media person from a newspaper family – and life-long Saints fan – I have a personal interest in journalism and New Orleans. RFA gave us the chance to invest in those interests; perpetuating honest journalism in that city through The Advocate and health reporter Emily Woodruff, covering a vital beat at this time.”
Kathy Im,
MacArthur Foundation
“As Americans continue to grapple with the many profound and undeniable global-to-local connections, MacArthur is pleased to partner with The GroundTruth Project to bring enterprise international journalism to American audiences since 2015.”
2019 Annual Giving

$1,000,000+
Facebook Journalism Project
Knight Foundation

$250,000 - $999,999
Craig Newmark Philanthropies
David and Lucile Packard Foundation
Google News Initiative
Joyce Foundation
Natasha and Dirk Ziff
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

$100,000 - $249,999
Bake Family Trust
Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation
Evelyn Y Davis Foundation
Ford Foundation
Galloway Family Foundation
Heising-Simons Foundation
Henry Luce Foundation
Jonathan Logan Foundation
LOR Foundation / Solutions Journalism Network
MacArthur Foundation
Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation
Tow Foundation

$50,000 - $99,999
Annenberg Foundation
Henry Kimelman Family Foundation
Inasmuch Foundation
Jesse and Betsy Fink
Leon Levy Foundation
McClatchy Foundation
Robin D’Alessandro
Santa Fe Community Foundation
Susie Trees

$5,000 - $49,999
Ann Davis Vaughan
Annie E. Casey Foundation
Anonymous
Barinaga Goodman Fund of West Marin Fund
Bloomberg LP
Ed O'Neill
Further Forward Foundation
Iger Bay Foundation
James W. Foley Legacy Foundation
Janet Clark
Kendeda Fund
Linda Mason and Roger Brown
Lucky Dog Too Fund
Maria Cuomo and Kenneth Cole
Marie Colvin Memorial Fund
Marilyn Caden's Trust
Mass Humanities
New England International Donors
Newspapers of New England
Park Foundation
Rick and Beverly Fetterman
Samuel I Newhouse Foundation
Select Equity Foundation
Susan Crown Exchange, Inc.

Report for America local newsroom supporters ($5,000+)
Blue Grass Community Foundation
Cleveland Foundation
Hudson-Webber Foundation
Innovia Foundation
North Carolina Community Foundation
North Carolina Local News Lab
Quinn Family Foundation
Sierra Health Foundation
Stanislaus Community Foundation

WHAT YOU SUPPORT

Supporters like you know that journalism is a cornerstone of democracy.
Here’s what your unrestricted gift to GroundTruth can make possible:
$50,000
enables hands-on training for a cohort of emerging journalists
$100,000
sponsors our GroundTruth podcast, reaching new audiences through audio reporting
$250,000
creates a rapid response reporting fund to cover emergent stories
$500,000
creates a GroundTruth endowment to sustain our reporting for years to come

Thank you

Thank you to all our supporters in 2019, who helped us kick off 2020 in the best way possible. We are so grateful to have you by our side as we restore journalism from the ground up. Watch the video below to meet some of the reporters whose work you make possible.
Financials

Year Over Year Growth

$1,873,263
(audited)
$1,873,263
(audited)
$2,249,690
(audited)
$2,249,690
(audited)
$4,678,700
(audited)
$4,678,700
(audited)
$1,873,263
(audited)
$1,873,263
(audited)
$2,249,690
(audited)
$2,249,690
(audited)
$4,678,700
(audited)
$4,678,700
(audited)

Revenue and expenses

1% Other
11% Gifts
88% Grants
$4,922,700
21% Global fellowships
25% Operations
54% Report for America
$4,678,700
Team Growth

In 2019, our staff grew by 118%, from 11 to 24, and our Board of Directors grew by 20% from 10 to 12. Meet the people behind it all here.

In 2019, our staff grew by 118%, from 11 to 24, and our Board of Directors grew by 20% from 10 to 12. Meet the people behind it all here.

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Letter from Charlie
Many years from now, we will look back on 2019 as a catalytic moment for The GroundTruth Project.
We are working hard to turn the tide against the gutting of local journalism in America, attacks on journalists around the world and a rising peril for a free press increasingly labeled ‘enemies of the people.’

To respond to this urgent need, we broke through from an early stage start-up to a sustainable nonprofit organization with extraordinary momentum to scale our work and fulfill our mission: restoring journalism from the ground up.

We’ve had a ground-breaking impact in 2019. And in 2020, we aim for still higher heights, with aspirations to reach 300 emerging journalists globally.

We’re leading an ambitious global movement to repair journalism, to restore trust, and to rejuvenate communities through the stories that matter most.

Will you join us?

Charles M. Sennott
Founder, CEO And Editor-in-Chief
The GroundTruth Project
Home of Report for America

Photo credits (in order of appearance): 1. Angus Mordant / GroundTruth 2. Eric Shelton / GroundTruth 3. Ryan Michalesko / Dallas Morning News, Report for America 4. Leticia Duarte / GroundTruth 5. David Fuchs / KUER, Report for America 6. Leticia Duarte / GroundTruth 7. Michelle Mizner / GroundTruth, Frontline PBS 8. Patrice Howard / GroundTruth 9. Cindy Trinh / GroundTruth