PHILADELPHIA (July 10, 2019) — The Lenfest Institute for Journalism and the National Geographic Society on Wednesday announced the formation of two collaborative reporting networks focused on providing in-depth, solutions-oriented reporting on both the Delaware and Ohio River Watersheds. The environment and its relevance to our everyday lives is one of the crucial stories of our time, and the networks are designed to build environmental reporting capacity in local newsrooms to more effectively tell these stories.

Each reporting network is part of a year-long, $650,000 project funded by The Lenfest Institute, the National Geographic Society, and the William Penn Foundation. This project aims to foster a deeper understanding of local watersheds by bringing global issues — such as climate change and drinking water quality — closer to home with thorough and engaging reporting on these critical natural ecosystems that affect the lives of millions of residents.

The late Lenfest Institute founder H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest was deeply devoted to the environment, preservation of green spaces, and the health of the local waterways and the ocean. Lenfest made the first introduction between the Institute and the Society, and facilitated a collaboration that combines first-rate scientific and technological knowledge and local boots-on-the-ground reporting in two diverse and vibrant regions.

With more than 130 years of storytelling and scientific expertise, the National Geographic Society is connecting participating local newsrooms with its world-class network of visual journalists, technologists, and explorers as part of the project.

The Lenfest Institute is leveraging its focus on creating sustainable models for local journalism by sharing best practices for how local newsrooms can convert engaged audiences into paying supporters.  The Institute is also providing organizational support for the project, helping build and support the network of news organizations collaborating across each region.

“The Delaware and Ohio River Watershed reporting networks will enhance local environmental reporting and establish a model for how national and local organizations can collaborate,” said Lenfest Institute Executive Director & CEO Jim Friedlich. “The Lenfest Institute is proud to partner with the National Geographic Society and more than ten local news organization across eight states, with support from William Penn Foundation, to bring best-of-breed journalistic resources to a critical local topic.”

The project will help create long-term environmental reporting capacity by facilitating relationships between the regional publishers. Each participating local outlet will have access to scientific training, improved technology, and resources to travel around the watershed which will empower sustained reporting on regional environmental issues.

All content produced will be published on publishers’ individual platforms as well as a network-specific website, and will also be available for participating outlets to share and re-publish.

The Delaware River Watershed Reporting Collaborative

The Philadelphia Inquirer published the first part of the series From the Source: Stories of the Delaware River on Wednesday, a comprehensive overview of the people and issues the series will explore as well as a look at how the river affects Philadelphia’s drinking water quality.

This fall, a collaborative reporting network of more than 10 news organizations that includes The Inquirer, WLVT PBS39, Delaware Public Media, The Bucks County Courier Times, Green Philly, and Delaware Currents will begin covering the Delaware River Watershed as part of From the Source. The newsrooms will report on issues such as water quality, the effects of climate change, and economic development as they relate to the watershed. The Delaware River Watershed provides drinking water to more than 13 million people, is home to hundreds of species of wildlife, and supports billions of dollars in economic activity.

In order to enhance the reporting and to make the coverage more accessible to communities throughout the watershed, the collaborative will include civic engagement activities designed to amplify its impact.

For example, the National Geographic Society will lead a “Photo Camp” workshop the week of July 22 in Philadelphia, which will focus on how communities relate to the Delaware. National Geographic Photo Camp is a global program that empowers young people from underserved communities to tell stories through photography.

The William Penn Foundation is supporting the Delaware River Watershed reporting network.

The Ohio Watershed Reporting Collaborative

Seven news organizations spanning Indiana through Pennsylvania have formed The Ohio Watershed Reporting Collaborative. PublicSource, Allegheny Front, 100 Days in Appalachia, Louisville Public Media, The Ohio Center for Investigative Journalism, Belt Magazine, and Environmental Health News have partnered to form the Collaborative.

The Ohio Watershed Reporting Collaborative will cover the challenges facing the more than 900-mile long river system, focusing on issues confronting both urban and rural communities, such as its legacy as a manufacturing engine and its post-industrial future. The Collaborative plans to begin publishing this autumn.

About the National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a global nonprofit organization that uses the power of science, exploration, education and storytelling to illuminate the wonder of the world, define critical challenges and catalyze action to achieve a planet in balance. Since 1888, National Geographic has pushed the boundaries of exploration, investing in bold people and transformative ideas, providing more than 14,000 grants for work across all seven continents, reaching 3 million students each year through education offerings, and engaging audiences around the globe through signature convenings and content.

About The Lenfest Institute for Journalism

The Lenfest Institute for Journalism is the first-of-its-kind non-profit organization whose sole mission is to develop and support sustainable business models for great local journalism. The Institute was founded in 2016 by cable television entrepreneur H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest. The Institute is the parent organization of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

About the William Penn Foundation

The William Penn Foundation, founded in 1945 by Otto and Phoebe Haas, is dedicated to improving the quality of life in the Greater Philadelphia region through efforts that increase educational opportunities for children from low-income families, ensure a sustainable environment, foster creativity that enhances civic life, and advance philanthropy in the Philadelphia region. The Foundation’s assets exceed $2.3 billion as of December 31, 2018.

Local News Solutions

The Lenfest Institute provides free tools and resources for local journalism leaders to develop sustainable strategies to serve their communities.

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