SEJ Partners in Launch of Mississippi River Basin Ag & Water Desk

$1.4 million grant to Missouri School of Journalism helps create network of journalists focused on Mississippi River basin


Ag & Water Desk logo

The University of Missouri School of Journalism announced on July 8, 2021, a $1.4 million, three-year grant from the Walton Family Foundation, a leading funder of environmental journalism in the United States, to create the Mississippi River Basin Ag & Water Desk — a collaborative network of journalists focused on increasing coverage of agriculture, water and environmental issues surrounding one of the world’s major river systems.

"The needs are vast," the partners said in a news release on the project. "The Mississippi River Basin covers more than 40% of the continental U.S., stretching east-west from Montana to Pennsylvania and north-south from Minnesota to Louisiana. Millions of people use the river system as their source of drinking water, and more than 90% of agricultural exports in the U.S. are grown there. Pollution, flooding, land use and climate change are some of the major issues across the region."

Through a partnership with Report for America, the network will place 10 journalists in newsrooms throughout the region to cover these issues. The journalists will receive training and mentorship from faculty and staff at the Missouri School of Journalism, along with experts from the Society of Environmental Journalists.

Read the full release.

SEJ Board Member Sara Shipley Hiles, associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism, will serve as executive director of the project. And there are multiple ways for journalists to get involved:

  1. Newsrooms in the basin can apply for one of 10 full-time positions through Report for America to cover ag, water and related issues. The grant covers half the reporter's salary in the first year up to $25,000 and a third in the second, plus extra benefits such as a $1,000 story grant and free SEJ annual conference attendance. Know a newsroom that needs an environment reporter? Please tell them about it!
  2. Emerging journalists can apply for one of these 10 positions, which will begin in summer 2022. They'll get specialized training, mentoring and participation in collaborative projects.
  3. Experienced journalists already working in the basin can apply to be one of five "expert journalists," who will serve as advisors and collaborative storytelling leaders. This comes with a $5,000 stipend and free SEJ annual conference attendance.
  4. The Missouri School of Journalism seeks to hire a creative, dynamic, experienced journalist to serve as editorial director and be the hands-on editor for the network and 2) a part-time associate director. These positions are remote within the basin.

Questions? Contact Sara or the Ag & Water Desk.