On a bright afternoon in October, I telephoned three journalists to let them know that our brand new foundation — started in memory of my dad, Neal Peirce — was giving each of them a travel grant of up to $1,500.
I was delivering good news… so why were my hands so sweaty?
Good adrenaline, I figured.
The journalists on the other end of the line put me at ease. They were not only grateful for us supporting their work, but excited to get out and do some on-the-ground reporting. Each had proposed stories about how their cities might work better for all their people. Thanks to the grant, they would be able to buttress their reporting with the kinds of human stories, local color, and textured understanding a journalist can only get by “being there.”
The importance of travel in journalism was something Dad knew well. In his long career as a journalist covering local government and regions from a national perspective, he covered America by plane, train, foot, and bicycle.
That’s simply not possible today for too many journalists, with travel budgets hollowed out at struggling media organizations. Our first grantees echoed that in my calls with them: Without the grant, they said, the stories they wanted to pursue probably wouldn’t be told at all. Clearly, there’s a big need for this kind of support.
Another sign of big demand: We received 23 applications for this first round of grants, more than we expected. That left our selection committee of seasoned writers and editors with some tough choices. Ultimately, they chose these three applicants for our board’s approval, which came unanimously:
Morgan Greene of the Chicago Tribune, who will report on what can be done to fix sewage problems plaguing a low-income, majority-Black town in southern Illinois.
Peter Rice, an editor at the Downtown Albuquerque News, who will go to Atlanta to look for lessons on how his city can protect residents along a proposed trail from being forced out by property-tax increases.
David Slade of the Charleston, S.C., Post & Courier, who will explore how other cities are helping “heirs property” owners–typically Black and lacking clear title to inherited land–effectively fight for their property rights.
You know what? None of these reporters knew my Dad, but the stories they proposed felt very… Neal Peirce-y to me. They’re searching for solutions. They’re tuned in to social justice. They’re oriented to helping vulnerable people. I know Dad would be happy about the work we’re supporting.
We’ve put something very special in motion!
Please join us in supporting stories like these in 2022. We plan to ramp up our operations to fund exponentially more travel grants in the years to come.