Urban Reporting Grants Program

CUNY Graduate School of Journalism

To help fill the gap as newsroom resources decline: Grant support for in-depth, investigative stories about New York City

Our Mission

The CUNY Graduate School of Journalism‘s Urban Reporting Program is now offering grant support for reporters seeking to dig deeply into significant issues affecting New Yorkers.

Using donations from foundations seeking to bolster in-depth local journalism, the school will award up to six grants yearly ranging from $5,000 to $15,000 to assist in the reporting and writing of investigative stories that take aim at important social, political or economic problems in the New York metropolitan area.

The goal is to help fill the widening gap that has emerged as newspapers and other media reduce their support for expensive and time-consuming investigative projects. That’s a gap that New York, a city that shelters the nation’s largest homeless population amid the country’s greatest concentration of wealth, can ill afford.

We are looking to support work that drills down deeply into New York’s many problems, offering solid facts in pursuit of change.

To that end, we seek proposals for in-depth investigative stories about New York City and its people from reporters who have demonstrated an ability to write or produce major works of journalism in print, broadcast or digital outlets. Grants are intended to cover the cost of research time and expenses while reporting. Grant recipients will also be encouraged to work with CUNY Journalism school students on specific research tasks. They will also be asked to make a presentation of their work to the school upon completion.

We seek the widest possible audience for finished projects. The Urban Reporting Program will assist with placement of stories, but applicants are themselves primarily responsible for pitching and selling their ideas to editors.

How it Works

Those interested in applying should consult the FAQs below. If you think you have a good project for us, use the online application. The application must include a well-focused story proposal of no more than 800 words similar to a pitch to an editor. It should include a description of the proposed project, the story’s potential impact, the reporting tasks required, and where the story might appear. The pitch should also emphasize how the story is new and significant. It should also include an estimate of the amount of time needed to complete the project, and the amount of funding requested. A panel overseeing the grants at the journalism school will consider applications for funding (see: Who We Are). The amount of funding will be based on the time required for the project and its potential impact.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible?

Journalists who have successfully demonstrated an ability to write or produce in-depth investigative stories that have appeared in major print, broadcast or electronic outlets are welcome to apply. Staff reporters and/or editors seeking funding for major projects that would otherwise not be financially feasible for their publications are eligible as well.

What’s the deadline?

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, but be aware funding is limited.

What kind of stories?

We seek proposals for deeply reported and keenly edged investigative stories on topics that have an impact on urban New Yorkers. Those topics include, but are not limited to: poverty, health care, education, mass transportation, housing policies, criminal justice and government.

What does the grant cover?

Grants range from $5,000 to $15,000 depending on the length and complexity of the project. An upfront portion of the grant is paid upon signing an agreement to deliver a finished story. The balance is paid in installments as writers meet benchmarks of completing a first draft and a final, edited version of the story.

Is the grant intended to be full-time?

Once approved for funding, it is expected that the project will be your primary focus during the grant period and that it will be completed in a timely manner. Staff reporters, for instance, will need to get editorial approval to concentrate chiefly on the project.

What role does the CUNY Urban Reporting Program play?

Once proposals meet initial approval, we’re available to help shape the ideas and approach for the duration of the project. We also ask to see initial and final drafts, and will likely offer comments and suggestions on the content, tone and structure of the story, although ultimate editorial authority lies with the media outlet publishing your story.

How and where are stories placed?

We seek the widest possible audience for grant-funded projects. That means identifying major, high-impact media outlets for placement. The primary responsibility for pitching and selling stories rests with the applicant, although we’ll also use our best efforts to both identify outlets and place projects. Story impact, however, is a key goal of the program and we reserve the right to approve any outlet.

What about story fees?

If your deal with the media outlet calls for payment (and we hope it will), those fees are yours in addition to the grant.

What about book proposals?

We won’t fund book proposals. If you view your story as part of a longer project, that’s fine, as long as it can also be published as a stand-alone article.

What types of references are required?

We ask for two references from the journalism business. One of the references must be an editor who can vouch for your ability to execute a long-form project. Both should be familiar enough with your work to be able to discuss your ability to get the story done.

Urban Investigative Grant Application

Fill out my online form.

Who We Are

Tom Robbins

Tom Robbins

Directing the grants program is Tom Robbins who has been investigative journalist in residence at the CUNY School of Journalism since 2011. A former staff reporter and columnist for the Village Voice, the Daily News, and the New York Observer, Robbins has written about politics, crime and urban issues for more than 30 years. His free-lance stories have appeared in the New York Times Magazine and other publications.

Errol Louis

Errol Louis

Errol Louis, host of NY1’s Inside City Hall, the preeminent political news show in New York City, is director of the Urban Program at the Journalism School and oversees the grants program. A regular contributor to CNN, Louis writes a weekly column for the New York Daily News where he is a former member of the editorial board. Louis holds a B.A. in government from Harvard; an M.A. in political science from Yale, and a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School.

Deborah Stead

Deborah Stead

Deborah Stead, a writing coach at the Journalism School, serves as advisor to the program. Stead was an editor and freelance reporter for more than 25 years. At BusinessWeek, she was an assigning editor and, in the early ’90s, a correspondent in the Moscow bureau. She was also an editor and free-lance reporter at The New York Times, where she worked on the business, metro, education, and Op-Ed desks. She has reported on criminal justice, urban issues, health and medicine, media, and education.

Funding for the grants comes in major part from the Charles H. Revson Foundation and other donors.

Contact Us

The CUNY School of Journalism Urban Reporting Grants Program provides financial support for in-depth reporting on issues crucial to New York City and its residents. The easiest way to contact us is by sending a message on the form below. We’ll get in touch with you as soon as we can.

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