Apply to Host a McCormick Specialized Reporting Institute


The Robert R. McCormick Foundation, through its partner The Poynter Institute, invites applications to offer a Specialized Reporting Institute (SRI). SRIs meet the growing need to provide journalists and others with subject-specific expertise and practical reporting training on issues or topics in the news. An SRI is organized and administered by an SRI host, who plans and carries out the program and related e-learning, to share lessons with a broader audience.

Each workshop convenes a diverse group of journalists, often from small to mid-sized news organizations, plus educators, for a program lasting about two days. (Here are previous SRI topics, hosts and locations, with links to sample agendas.) Hosts also work with Poynter and NewsU to produce a webinar and a page of reporting resources on the topic for NewsU.

SRI workshop participants represent all media platforms, and SRI funds cover participants’ travel, lodging and tuition. Funds also cover the costs of planning a webinar and gathering materials for the resource page. SRI hosts receive $35,000-$45,000 (the average is about $40,000) to cover these costs. McCormick will fund six SRIs next year, including three hosted by Poynter on covering the Iowa caucuses, Ebola/infectious disease and education/Common Core.

For 2015, McCormick and Poynter seek applications for SRI workshops on the following topics, rated as subjects of keen interest in a survey of editors, news directors and other newsroom leaders:

  • The economy: wage stagnation, joblessness, the new poor, minimum wage, wealth inequality
  • The environment: Water, climate change, weather, clean power, preparing for natural disasters
  • Health care: prices, access, Affordable Care Act
  • Police/community relations: race relations/disparities in enforcement, police use of force
  • Immigration: impact on communities, unaccompanied minors, policies and politics

SRI workshops should focus on one or more elements of these broad topics, not attempt to cover the entire range of ideas. Applicants may propose another topic not on this list, but must make a strong case to justify it. You may submit more than one application. Please plan to include guidance on investigative reporting and data-driven stories in your SRI workshop, as those skills also ranked high on the survey.

How to Apply

  1. Be familiar with the goals of a Specialized Reporting Institute to ensure that your proposal will seek to achieve those goals.
  2. Know these requirements for an SRI and be prepared to address them in your application.
  3. Select your topic and plan the key components of your proposal: location, how you'll recruit applicants, examples of subject experts and journalists you'd like to use as faculty, and any other elements that will enhance the effectiveness and impact of your SRI. We encourage hosts to share their training at conferences and other venues, so if you have ideas for this, please include them in your proposal.
  4. Fill out the online application by Nov. 15. Note: You must register as a user at Poynter News University to apply.

If you're selected as a finalist, you will be asked for additional information, including a project budget.

SRI Application Timeline

Nov. 15, 2014: Deadline to apply. You will receive an email confirming that your application has been received.

Nov. 25: Applicants will learn if they are finalists for funding. Finalists will be asked for additional information.

Dec. 8: Deadline for finalists to submit supplemental information, including a budget.

Dec. 18: Finalists will be notified if they are recipients of funds to host an SRI.

Poynter's Role in the SRI Program

The McCormick Foundation partners with The Poynter Institute to administer the Specialized Reporting Institutes Program. Poynter oversees the application process, answers applicants’ questions, works with McCormick to select SRI hosts and then serves as a resource for hosts as they carry out and evaluate their events. Poynter will also work with hosts to extend the learning from their event through a NewsU webinar and a page of reporting resources on NewsU. Through this partnership, McCormick and Poynter hope to ensure a diversity of participants and speakers at each SRI, increase the online reach of the training, build community around the training events, create consistency within the SRI program and enhance the evaluation of the work.

For more information, see our Frequently Asked Questions. If you still need assistance, please send an e-mail to McCormickSRI@poynter.org.