To help meet the urgent information needs during this global pandemic, a partnership of local newsrooms and community institutions is launching The Wichita Journalism Collaborative — a coalition formed to support and enhance quality local journalism.

Amy DeVault, Wichita Journalism Collaborative Project Manager
Amy DeVault

Journalists have been working around the clock to cover the spread of and responses to COVID-19, as well as the massive economic consequences of the pandemic. Amy DeVault, project manager for the initiative and journalism instructor at Wichita State University, said she hopes these local organizations will share resources and work together in covering the challenges people will face in the coming year, as well as the local responses by government, organizations and individuals.

Joe Stumpe, editor of The Active Age, said formal collaboration among news organizations is a fairly new concept.

“We’re usually in competition with each other,” Stumpe said. “But in the current environment, anything that helps us do our job of keeping people informed is worth the effort.”

The initiative will launch with a $100,000 grant from Solutions Journalism Network, based in New York City. SJN encourages rigorous reporting not only on problems and challenges facing communities, but also on possible solutions. 

“Solutions Journalism Network is very pleased to welcome the Wichita Collaborative as a member of the Local Media Project, an initiative that seeks to strengthen local media ecosystems through the creation of sustainable reporting collaboratives that address pressing challenges in their community from a solutions perspective,” said Liza Gross, vice president of practice change at Solutions Journalism Network.

“We are confident the Wichita Journalism Collaborative will make a unique contribution to the news landscape in Wichita and engage and inform audiences in innovative and transformational ways.”

Liza Gross, Solutions Journalism Network

Media partners include: The Active Age, The Community Voice, The Journal (Kansas Leadership Center), KMUW, KSN-TV, The Sunflower and The Wichita Eagle. Community partners are Wichita Public Library, AB&C Bilingual Resources and The Elliott School of Communication at Wichita State University.

Rachel Schrag Sommerfeld, news director at KSN, said the station is excited to collaborate with other local journalists on in-depth reporting.

“Wichita already has a strong community of journalists, and this opportunity only helps us to broaden our coverage of important issues,” Sommerfeld said.

With a daily newspaper, the local public radio station and major television station on the mainstream end, DeVault said she thinks the mix of media partners is nearly perfect, with the larger organizations bringing reporting and editing prowess, as well as significant local audiences.

“But just as important, we have four smaller publications that serve niche audiences,” DeVault said. “These editors bring perspectives from their readers into every discussion and have important connections among their audiences. It’s exciting to watch all of them begin putting their strengths and ideas together to try to create something better than any one of them could alone.”