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The Kansas City Defender is a nonprofit news site for young Black audiences across the Midwest
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Aug. 4, 2022, 2:47 p.m.
LINK: www.ljjp.org  ➚   |   Posted by: Hanaa' Tameez   |   August 4, 2022

For years, members of the news industry has been talking about how crime journalism can do more harm than good and have tried to find solutions. The impact of bad crime reporting is widespread and it can take years to repair broken trust with audiences.

That’s why the Law & Justice Journalism Project is launching: to provide journalists with tools, skills, and resources to improve their coverage of crime, public safety, and the United States legal system.

“The media can contribute to misperceptions about crime and its solutions, or it can help people have a more sophisticated, nuanced understanding of these issues,” Jessica Brand, founder of the advising firm Wren Collective and an LJJP board member, told me in an email. “The media plays perhaps the most important role in determining whether the public believes crime rates are high or low, whether they believe their communities are safe or dangerous, and how they understand the possible roots of and solutions to crime. For journalists, covering these issues is difficult, especially for those trying to cover crime and safety in a breaking news format.”

LJJP has two main offerings. The first is virtual panel discussions with journalists, researchers, legal experts, and community members who are most impacted by the criminal legal system. Promised panelists include Astead Herndon, Robert Greene, Jessica Pishko, Dwayne Betts, Josie Duffy Rice, and Maurice Chammah.

The second program is a year-long fellowship that will partner 15 early-career journalists with more experienced journalists. The mentors will provide “regular advising on story development, investigating cases, finding sources, and navigating a complex topic on often tight reporting schedules.” The first class of fellows will be announced in October 2022. Mentors include: Keri Blakinger (The Marshall Project), J. Brian Charles (Baltimore Beat and The Trace), Linda Coombs (CBS), Mensah Dean (Philadelphia Inquirer), Shaila Dewan (The New York Times), Chris Halsne (American University), and Jeff Pegues (CBS).

Reporters, editors and producers face the pressures of short deadlines, resource constraints, and difficulty quickly finding a range of good sources, Brand said. At the same time, issues around crime and safety are usually complicated, which is hard to capture and convey in traditional breaking news formats. LJJP’s focus is on helping journalists understand the reasons and circumstances in which crime occurs. That often means understanding divestment from communities, disparate policing, intergenerational trauma, and mental health, Brand said.

LJJP is funded by Building a Stronger Future, a family-run foundation run by Sam Bankman-Fried, the CEO of a cryptocurrency exchange, and Gabe Bankman-Fried, director of Guarding Against Pandemics. Building a Stronger Future also donated $5 million to ProPublica earlier this year to support investigations related to the pandemic. (You can read about the Bankman-Fried brothers’ political activity in NBC and Politico.)

You can visit LJJP’s website here and apply to the fellowship here.

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