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Opinion

From the editor

We're hiring: Sentinel's new Cultural Expression & Community Values reporting position open

Join our award-winning team that's rebuilding local news from the ground up

A new fulltime reporter will be covering Cultural Expression and Community Values in Southern Arizona this year, with support from TucsonSentinel.com's readers and the national Report for America program.

The Sentinel was one of just two Arizona news outlets selected for a new local journalism position backed by Report for America from among about 600 applications across the country.

The Cultural Expression and Community Values beat will be bilingual and intersectional, going far beyond a traditional "arts" beat to explore the ties that bind us and the dreams that push us, with hard news and contextual journalism on the deep traditions and creative cross-cultural innovations in local art, performance, music, writing, architecture and public design, theatre, faith and religion, community groups, food and folkways.

The Sentinel's new reporter will explore not just what's happening locally, but go far beyond listing current cultural events and simple reviews to the essential *why* these things are happening. Our journalist will be interviewing the creative people behind the expressions that inspire us, and telling our community why they're driven to build and craft and reflect this town in their work, as well as placing things in necessary context.

Interested candidates must apply via Report for America. Deadline: Jan. 31.

We're seeking applicants who have a solid grounding in hard news, with an appreciation of the unique character of the Borderlands of the Southwest, and have excellent arts and culture knowledge, both contemporary and traditional.

The ability to speak and write in Spanish and English is important, and we prefer candidates who have photography and other multimedia experience.

Our new Cultural Expression and Community Values reporter will join the Sentinel's current RFA corps member, IDEA (Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity & Access) reporter Bennito L. Kelty, as part of our nonprofit newsroom.

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Tucson is the first United Nations City of Gastronomy in the U.S., has an impressive slate of professional cultural amenities, a renowned new music scene, and creative artists abound — creating murals, performances, paintings, and more. We have faith and service groups that are extremely active in caring for refugees and asylum-seekers, seeking to ease their integration into our community.

We are reputed to be the longest continually occupied place in the nation — with evidence of human habitation here dating back 4,000 years. But we're also the site of a major research university and significant tech firms.

Too much of what's being published elsewhere amounts to just event listings and very thin popular reviews. While we're not intending this position to be a traditional theatre or art critic, the ability to provide background and tie together different threads will be important. We want this reporter to find the most interesting, creative people in this town, who are doing things that move others, whether that's emotionally via art or through cultural expressions such as food or faith.

Desired skills

  • Demonstrated knowledge of current events, cultural trends
  • Crisp, concise and insightful writing
  • Enterprise reporting skills that show inventive approaches to the news
  • Accuracy and completeness in reporting
  • Ability to perform under deadline pressure
  • Willingness to learn new techniques and technologies
  • Bilingual (English/Spanish) interviewing and writing/translation
  • Photo/video experience
  • Public records, data & investigative reporting skills

Salary: $30-39,000 doe, plus professional development, health insurance, vacation and 401k retirement contributions. Questions? Contact Editor & Publisher Dylan Smith.

We are looking for people who are self-motivated, detail-oriented, curious, reliable and organized. Be ready to contribute your ideas and energy to our award-winning team.

"Report for America is excited to continue to work with the Tucson Sentinel on a genuinely innovative beat to explore the ties that bind their community, providing deep dives into the traditions and cross-cultural events that shape their rich culture," said Teri Hayt, Report for America's deputy director of corps excellence and a former managing editor at the Arizona Daily Star. "RFA is committed to helping newsrooms find the stories that resonate and inform their communities."

Being picked to host yet another RFA corps member is "a great honor for our local nonprofit newsroom, and a humbling affirmation of the quality of journalism that the entire Sentinel staff is providing our community ," said Dylan Smith, editor and publisher of TucsonSentinel.com. "It's also a testament to the way our readers and community leaders have stepped up to support the Sentinel's reporting."

The privately organized Report for America initiative, part of The GroundTruth Project, is a two-year program (with an option for three) that delivers a wide range of benefits to its corps of journalists placed on local newsrooms. Beyond paying up to half of the journalists' salaries, it provides ongoing training and mentoring by leading journalists, peer networking, and memberships to select professional organizations. To help connect corps members to their communities, they are required to undertake a service project, which often includes students in journalism-related activities. Sentinel IDEA reporter Bennito L. Kelty has been working with local high-school students as part of his service project.

The newly selected newsrooms, along with those renewing their partnership, will expand the size of Report for America's corps to 325, including nearly 270 newsrooms across all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands, in 2022.

"The selections were made mostly on the basis of which newsrooms defined the most compelling gaps in coverage and plans to deploy corps members well," said RFA.

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"Yes, local news is in crisis — but this batch of newsrooms also fills us with tremendous hope," said Steven Waldman, president and co-founder of Report for America.

Applications from reporters are being accepted until Jan. 31; however, those who apply before Dec. 31 will receive early consideration. RFA undertakes a highly competitive national interview and vetting process before matching potential hires with local newsrooms like the Sentinel. Last year, more than 1,800 applications were received for about 70 reporting jobs across the country.

TucsonSentinel.com went through a highly selective proposal and interview process before being chosen as a host newsroom for a second RFA corps member.

"We're tremendously excited to be renewed as a Report for America newsroom, and have this opportunity to grow the Tucson Sentinel's newsroom even more," said Smith. "It's rewarding to play a role in rebuilding local news across the country, with RFA and our work with groups such as the Institute for Nonprofit News and Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers."

"While chain-run newspapers and stations have cut and cut and cut yet again — and are poised to continue to shrink their work rather than invest in the future — truly local news organizations like the Sentinel aren't just breaking important news stories — we're leading the way in fixing the news business," Smith said. "And we're doing that with support from national groups such as Report for America, along with vital donations from members of this community. We're very grateful for all of those contributions."

RFA says it's looking for "talented, ethical, insanely hard-working, gutsy, open-minded, service-oriented journalists to inform communities and hold powerful institutions accountable."

"Report for America provides a unique opportunity for journalists to pursue meaningful, local beat reporting that sadly is missing from many of today's newsrooms," said Earl Johnson, director of admissions at Report for America. "Beyond talented reporters and photojournalists, we are looking for a diversity of individuals who see journalism as a calling, who want to make a difference within their communities."

The only other Arizona publication to be awarded new RFA positions this year was the Arizona Republic, owned by national chain Gannett Inc., which plans to hire two journalists to cover rural areas of the state.

"Make no mistake, the greatest threat to democracy is the collapse of local news," said Charles Sennott, GroundTruth CEO and co-founder of Report for America. "We are excited to welcome these newsrooms and look forward to empowering them to meet the growing information needs of the communities they serve."

About Report for America

Report for America is a national service program that places talented emerging journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered topics and communities. Launched in 2017, Report for America is creating a new, sustainable system that provides Americans with the information they need to improve their communities, hold powerful institutions accountable, and rebuild trust in the media.

Report for America is supported in its efforts by a number of philanthropic leaders, including the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Meta Journalism Project, Natasha and Dirk Ziff, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, the Joyce Foundation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, the Lumina Foundation, Microsoft, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, SpringPoint Partners, the Walton Family Foundation in partnership with the University of Missouri School of Journalism, the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, the Heising-Simons Foundation, the Henry L. Kimelman Foundation, the Tow Foundation, and the Google News Initiative.

Report for America is an initiative of The GroundTruth Project, an award-winning nonprofit journalism organization with an established track record of training and supporting teams of emerging journalists around the world, including the recent launch of Report for the World in partnership with local newsrooms in India, Nigeria and Brazil.

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