The Fresno Bee has announced the launch of the Fresnoland Lab, an innovative journalism initiative in collaboration with Fresnoland Media, a local nonprofit, to cover critical issues shaping the future of the central San Joaquin Valley. The Fresnoland Lab will focus on water, land use, housing and neighborhood opportunity and will test new approaches to engage citizens and make local news more accessible. The Fresno Bee is one of five McClatchy newsrooms in California.
A dedicated team of four journalists with an ambitious commitment to in-depth reporting will be hired to report, write and edit for Fresnoland. The lab will be featured in a special section on The Fresno Bee website and publish a weekly newsletter, open-source information and host public events, all of which will be available at no cost.
The Fresnoland Lab is made possible with the financial support of The James Irvine Foundation, the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.
"We are grateful for the support of our funders, whose contributions are integral to our work and the lab's ability to reach new audiences," said Tim Ritchey, publisher of The Fresno Bee.
The Fresnoland Lab team, in collaboration with others in the news organization, will train 20 to 30 citizen journalists who will attend and document public and community meetings throughout the region. Their reporting will become an open-source repository of information for other community media partners to use and will also serve as source material for reporting projects for the Fresnoland Lab team.
The Fresnoland Lab will also host eight Public Newsroom events in its first year to connect and build relationships with the region's diverse residents. These events will be held at community centers and libraries and will include Spanish/Hmong translation and childcare. One Public Newsroom event will be held primarily in Spanish and another primarily in Hmong.
"This is a unique opportunity for The Bee to bolster local journalism on topics that are critical to the advancement of the central San Joaquin Valley and test approaches to engage members of our community in new and exciting ways," commented Joe Kieta, editor of The Fresno Bee.
Kieta also announced the appointment of Danielle Bergstrom as policy and engagement editor of the Fresnoland Lab. She is an urban planner with more than a dozen years of experience working in local government and philanthropy and founder of the nonprofit Fresnoland Media. An editor and two reporters will be hired to complete the Fresnoland Lab team and will be housed in the Bee's newsroom and report to Kieta.
"I'm excited to join forces with The Fresno Bee to build on the mission of Fresnoland," said Danielle Bergstrom, formerly director of Fresnoland. "Our goal is to help explain complicated policies and programs in our community that impact the lives of residents in the Fresno area. We know that the San Joaquin Valley is ground zero for what the country could look like in 20 years and these stories offer a preview to the challenges that many American regions may face."
The Fresnoland Lab is The Bee's second significant journalism initiative in the last year supported by donor funding. In September, The Bee launched the Education Lab, which focuses on education issues critical to the advancement of residents in Fresno and the San Joaquin Valley.
The Fresnoland Lab will go live in late February on The Fresno Bee website. In the meantime, readers can learn more about the Lab and sign up for the weekly newsletter on the Fresnoland Lab landing page.