Hillman Foundation Launches ‘Reporting the U.S. Workplace’ at Newmark J-School

  • By Newmark J-School Staff

The Sidney Hillman Foundation is launching a unique training program for reporters aimed at improving the country’s understanding of issues around work and labor. ‘Reporting the U.S. Workplace’ will be hosted at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. Tom Robbins, the J-School’s Investigative Journalist in Residence, will serve as the program’s convener.

At a time when few news organizations have full-time reporters on the labor beat, this first-of-its kind initiative will bring print, broadcast and digital journalists to the school in New York City for two days of advanced workshops on how to cover these critical issues. The program is scheduled for Jan. 9-10, 2020.

“The late New York Times labor reporter Bill Serrin once said, ‘you cover work, you cover everything.’ It’s still true today–there is a work lens to nearly every story,” said Alexandra Lescaze, executive director of the Sidney Hillman Foundation. “Our goal is to give reporters the expertise to bring this framework to their reporting and to identify these stories and cover them skillfully.”

The program, which covers all expenses of the participants, is being funded through a donation to the foundation from Jesse C. Crawford, an entrepreneur who is president and CEO of the Atlanta-based Crawford Media Services, Inc. The Hillman Foundation honors excellence in journalism in service of the common good.

The demand for deeper reporting on the workplace comes as government regulation has decreased, changing work arrangements have upended standard employment practices and new groups of workers are organizing to seek protections on the job. At the same time, news organizations, facing their own financial pressures, are no longer investing the way they did in coverage of the workplace. According to a recent report by the Nieman Foundation, of the top 25 U.S. newspapers, six have full-time labor reporters; none exist at network or cable news organizations or the major public media outlets; and only a few digital news organizations and progressive magazines assign reporters full time to this essential beat.

“As a public journalism school, we consider it an important part of our mission to offer in-depth training to mid-career reporters, particularly as business pressures on our industry have virtually eliminated that role for newsrooms,” said Sarah Bartlett, dean of the Newmark J-School. “We’re thrilled to partner with the Hillman Foundation to ensure that labor coverage around the country is strengthened.” The journalism school has for several years run similar efforts to train journalists to cover fiscal issues facing state and local governments, as well as climate change and resiliency.

Robbins, who has covered labor at the New York Daily News and the Village Voice, said quality journalism is the best way to improve the public’s understanding of the workplace. “More and more people labor at jobs without any safety net when it comes to what they are paid and their daily conditions of work,” he said. “These are rich, important stories that need to be told and we want to provide journalists with some of the tools they need to help tell them.”

The classes are expected to range from covering labor relations to the way globalization, technology and the climate challenge are disrupting work. There will also be practical sessions with reporters walking participants through how they did their best stories as well as how to find and use government and corporate data. The curriculum will also cover the National Labor Relations Act, the Department of Labor, and newly emerging workers’ organizations.

Participants will have the opportunity to pitch story ideas and secure grants through the program to help support their reporting.

The program pays all expenses including transportation, hotel and food.

Among the confirmed faculty are: Steven Greenhouse, veteran New York Times labor reporter; Michael Grabell, who covers labor, economy and trade for ProPublica; Sharon Block, executive director of Harvard’s Labor and Worklife Program; Heidi Shierholz, Senior Economist and Director of Policy at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) in Washington, DC; and Janice Fine, associate professor of Labor Studies and Employment Relations at the School of Management and Labor Relations at Rutgers University. Robbins, Greenhouse, Block, and Dorian Warren, executive director of the Center for Community Change, are on the program’s advisory board.

Reporters who are interested in attending the program should apply here. The deadline for applications is Nov. 25. 2019.

Contact: Alexandra Lescaze, 646-448-6413, Alex@HillmanFoundation.org