Reporting on Systemic Racism Grant

Systemic racism is ingrained in institutions throughout the United States. Following protests after the police killing of George Floyd, many communities are trying to create a world where racism is not embedded in criminal justice, housing, public health and many of the systems that govern everyday life. What does that look like?

The Los Angeles Press Club is funding reporting that focuses on effective responses to institutional racism. We’re looking for stories that surface and critically assess alternatives to racist structures and practices. We want stories of what is working and how communities got there.

Is there a place where a “people’s budget” is working? Or perhaps an alternative method of policing? Maybe a community has taken action to stamp out discriminatory practices in housing or education.

We hope to catalyze strong solutions coverage that is relevant to your communities; that sparks engagement and public discourse; and that informs meaningful, systemic public-sector innovation.

Proposal Guidelines

You need to live and work in Southern California to apply for funds.

You do not need to be a member of the L.A. Press Club, but the grants are only open to freelancers or journalists with part-time work.

You should be a writer, photojournalist, videographer, TV journalist, radio journalist or podcaster. And your project should be focused on solutions journalism to be valid.

We are looking for story proposals across media platforms that report on innovative responses to historical racial injustices.

Ideal proposals should include one or more of the following elements:

  • Investigation and explanation of how communities, policymakers, public agencies and other institutions have addressed problems.
  • Use of data and/or research to report stories, providing evidence about the efficacy of the response, not just highlighting cosmetic approaches.
  • A strategy for measuring impact, beginning with a clear goal for the story or project.
  • Use of multimedia, data visualization or social media to tell stories.
  • Engagement activities that connect the reporting to constructive public discourse.

Stories can be told in any number of formats. The L.A. Press Club welcomes shorter pieces as well as longer take-outs; investigative series; mobile-friendly content; TV news segments or public affairs programming; radio pieces and podcasts; data visualizations and interactive maps.

The L.A. Press Club is teaming up with Solutions Journalism Network for training. We will be offering one workshop at no cost prior to the application deadline. If you are new to solutions journalism, we encourage but do not require you to attend this workshop before you apply.

For those who are selected for funding, the LA Press Club and the Solutions Journalism Network will offer a mandatory specialized workshop.

The fund is open for applications. The deadline to apply is 11:59 p.m. on May 1, 2022.

The total amount available in this round of grants is $15,000. Grant recipients will be awarded up to $2,500. Half of the grant will be paid upfront and the rest when the project is published.

The Los Angeles Press Club should be recognized when finished work is published or broadcast.

Grant Recipients

Anita W. Harris

Anita W. Harris is a writer living in Long Beach, California. She is also an educator and editor. She covers local news and theater for the Signal Tribune newspaper.

Project Summary: Her project for this Los Angeles Press Club grant focuses on how the City of Signal Hill in California is working to address systemic racism in its governing and policing, especially through a recent resolution promoting equality and creating a new diversity-coalition commission. Her written project will follow the discussions and actions of the commission against the historical background of Signal Hill’s colorful and sometimes racist past.

The small 2.2 square-mile city surrounded by the City of Long Beach serves as a micro-example of how municipal change can happen in the wake of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. As BLM protesting tapers off, we as a nation are left with fledgling promises and nascent calls for systemic change that may or may not take firm root or have real effect. This project is a case study in BLM's immediate legacy.

Anita-W-Harris

Dena Montague

Dena Montague is a research associate at UC Santa Barbara with the Global Environmental Justice Project. She directs an innovative project exploring environmental justice and COVID-19 in Santa Barbara County, combining investigative journalism, data justice and scholarly research.

Project Summary: The prison system in the U.S has become a symbol of institutional racism. The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) holds approximately 14% of all prisoners in the U.S. The vast majority of these inmates are incarcerated due to non-violent drug convictions. Nearly 40% of BOP inmates are Black and 30% are Latinx. Fewer than 5% of Federal inmates have been convicted of a violent offense. But the COVID-19 crisis turned non-violent convictions into death sentences. And during the outbreak, Lompoc prison, a federal prison holding approximately 3,000 inmates located in a rural city along the coast in Santa Barbara County, became the epicenter of a horrific wave of COVID-19 cases.

Despite these alarming facts, this story would have gone relatively unnoticed if not for the grassroots organizing of wives of inmates. They are founding members of the Lompoc Prison Task Force, a coalition of community activists and elected officials in Santa Barbara County and Love Your Inmate, an advocacy organization that, in the span of one year, has grown its membership from a few families to over one thousand.

Ultimately, these women are working toward creating mechanisms for effective oversight of the BOP, as well as policy reform, particularly concerning unfair sentencing and restorative justice.

Dena-Montague

Taylor Walker

Taylor Walker is a Los Angeles-based journalist writing for the non-profit news site WitnessLA, as well as other publications, including Imprint News and the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange.

Walker specializes in justice issues such as law enforcement reform, alternatives to incarceration, the way juvenile justice and criminal justice systems affect the health and wellbeing of individuals, families, and communities, and how those systems are being reimagined. She also curates the California Justice Report, WitnessLA's newsletter of criminal justice-related stories and views from Southern California and beyond.

Project Summary: Forty years of dramatic increases in the number of women incarcerated in the United States has served to funnel children into the child welfare system, and since the late 1990s, has increasingly led to the termination of parental rights. This problem — rooted in racism and born of past decades’ tough-on-crime laws and the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) of 1997 — can separate mothers, even those with relatively short sentences, from their kids forever.

The path to reunification, even before parental rights are terminated, is extremely difficult for parents reentering their communities. Through a four-part series, this project will dig into the issue, tell the stories of some of the families impacted by separation, and explore the work of one unique program that advocates for and helps to reunite mothers and their kids.

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