McClatchy's West Region Editor, Lauren Gustus, will lead a new company-wide effort as director of community funding initiatives. In this expanded role, Gustus will be responsible for building community support for important local journalism initiatives through grants, contributions from philanthropic organizations and individuals, and partnerships with local stakeholders and readers.
"This expanded role reflects the tremendous work Lauren has had in this space in just the last six months," said Kristin Roberts, vice president of news, in announcing Gustus' role. "We've been inspired by other news organizations that have embraced this model, and I'm confident that with Lauren's leadership, we can see the same success."
Over the course of 2020, McClatchy plans to launch as many as 10 community-funded journalism labs in local newsrooms across the country.
Already in 2019, Gustus has supported McClatchy's entry into this space. She supported the September launch of The Fresno Bee's Education Lab, a philanthropy- and community-funded editorial initiative focusing on education issues critical to the advancement of residents in Fresno, California, and the San Joaquin Valley. The Education Lab will expand The Fresno Bee newsroom by 20 percent.
In September, she helped the Miami Herald launch an Investigative Lab, a $1.5 million fundraising effort to support the largest team of investigative reporters in the South Florida region. The Herald's groundbreaking reporting on Jeffery Epstein with the Perversion of Justice package is just one example of high-impact reporting that starts at a local level.
Last month, The Sacramento Bee launched Tipping Point Lab, a four-person reporting team of journalists to cover Sacramento as it grows toward a prosperous and inclusive future.
"Our goal is to welcome the communities served by McClatchy into a deeper relationship with our local newsrooms," Gustus said. "We know what happens in cities and towns across the United States that have lost their local newspaper. In a challenging time for local journalism, it is crucial that we both engage more consistently with those we serve and build a bridge to sustainability."
Editorial independence is a core value for all McClatchy newsrooms, and funders have no editorial oversight, approval or influence over the journalism produced by McClatchy reporters or newsrooms.
Gustus will be assisted by a small team including Tim Ritchey, president and publisher of The Fresno Bee, Modesto Bee, Merced Sun-Star and San Luis Obispo Tribune.
"Tim has been a great partner in ramping up in Fresno's Education Lab, working with the philanthropic and business stakeholders," said Roberts. "We're excited that he will bring his energy and insight to our community-funded journalism efforts across the country."
Gustus will continue in her role as West Region editor, with responsibility for newsrooms in California, Washington and Idaho.