- Paying grants and stipends to freelance writers and non-traditional journalists based in the St. Louis metropolitan area to increase editorial and public interest coverage published by independent media outlets and made freely available
- Making grants to support editorial headcount and paid fellowships and internships at journalistic outlets that serve the metropolitan St. Louis area, with a focus on journalists from historically marginalized communities
- Conducting listening and engagement activities aimed at gaining a better understanding of the news and information needs of the communities of the metropolitan St. Louis area
- Receiving gifts and grants, and using those gifts and grants for their proper purposes and activities that qualify as exempt under IRS code section 501(c)(3)
Better reporting for a better St. Louis
The River City Journalism Fund is new, but already making a splash in St. Louis by commissioning deeply reported stories that illuminate the region. We’ve been cited by the AP, had our work discussed on St. Louis on the Air and seen our stories attached to briefs filed with the Missouri Supreme Court. And we’re only just getting started.
This spring, journalists we funded won three significant honors. Sally J. Altman and the Before Ferguson Beyond Ferguson team were recognized with the Journalism That Matters Award from the ASPBE Educational Foundation on May 11, 2023, for their stories in Health Progress, only the fourth time the organization has given this award. And Monica Obradovic, whose story “A Date with the Executioner,” kicked off 2022’s “Shadow of Death” series, won a Great Plains Journalism award for Best Specialty Feature. The “Shadow of Death” series also won Best Collaboration from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia.
We believe that by hiring good journalists and partnering with local publications that make those stories freely available to readers across St. Louis, we can help to educate the public and shore up our democracy.
Our Inaugural Fellow
Julian Trejo is a second-generation American, the grandson of Mexican immigrants who grew up in poverty. He overcame a substandard education in rural Arkansas to win a full ride scholarship to Washington University — and today, thanks to the River City Journalism Fund and its supporters, he’s able to fulfill his dream of covering St. Louis’ new MLS team as a beat reporter.
Julian’s work has appeared in the St. Louis American, the Riverfront Times and other local media outlets. He’s covered St. Louis City SC’s fans, their strategy, their promising start and more. Recently, his first-person essay about his father became an RFT cover story and a St. Louis Public Radio audio production. Guided by RCJF chairman Dick Weiss, Julian plans to keep working through October. Thanks to our generous supporters, he’s getting paid for that work — and kickstarting his future ambitions.
One of the Pruitt-Igoe buildings is brought down by dynamite implosion on April 29, 1972. Former residents say the federal government sprayed a potential carcinogen at the complex in the early 1950s. St. Louis Post-Dispatch photo.
Giving Voice to Pruitt-Igoe’s Former Residents
As citizens and activists sound the alarm about radioactive sites in North St. Louis County and officeholders on both sides of the aisle respond with calls for action, former residents of the Pruitt-Igoe housing complex are asking: What about us?
The River City Journalism Fund amplified their voices in a story featured on the front page of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
In the early 1950s, Army contract workers sprayed zinc cadmium sulfide, a potential carcinogen, into the air surrounding Pruitt-Igoe and other places in St. Louis. It was part of a Cold War-era military experiment. But it wasn’t until 1994 that residents and City Hall learned what the workers were up to. Since then, residents say they have lost many family members to cancer. “Nearly every funeral I had gone to was a cancerous death,” said Ben Phillips, a former Pruitt-Igoe resident.
Digging Into College Kids
The College Kids programs was one of Mayor Tishaura Jones’ signature initiatives in her successful 2021 campaign. But River City Journalism Fund’s deep dive into the program, published by both St. Louis Public Radio and the Riverfront Times, showed a slow start unlikely to match the program’s lofty aims. As Mike Fitzgerald’s story explains, “Seven years since the program’s launch, College Kids has failed to attract much philanthropic investment, and all but a relatively few accounts have remained stuck at strikingly small balances.
“Only 15% of accounts have grown past the $50 seed level. The average account is worth just $73. And with a large number of participants failing to opt in for additional incentives beyond the seed funds, and a program design that will leave many others unable to reclaim city-donated funds at graduation, it’s worth questioning whether the city’s relatively modest investment will do anything to help anyone get to college — or if it’s all just window dressing.”
St. Louis residents like Janai Holt hope to send their kids to college, but she wonders if the $50 each in seed money granted to her two older children through College Kids could ever grow to enough. Photo by Braden McMakin.