Charlotte media collaborative to focus on city’s affordable housing crisis

Charlotte's worsening shortage of affordable housing has caused debate at city council meetings in recent months.
Charlotte's worsening shortage of affordable housing has caused debate at city council meetings in recent months. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Major media companies in the Charlotte area are joining forces in a collaborative aimed at finding solutions to problems facing the Charlotte region, according to a news release from the Knight Foundation.

The partnership, called the Charlotte Journalism Collaborative, intends to “strengthen local journalism and encourage greater connection between reporters and Charlotte residents,” said the release.

Six major media companies and “other local institutions” are backing the collaborative, which is supported by $150,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The donation is part of the $300 million commitment Knight announced last month to rebuild the future of local journalism, “essential to a functioning democracy,” said a Knight Foundation release.

Karen Rundlet, director for journalism at the Knight Foundation, said in the release that the effort will promote civic dialogue “at a time when local journalism jobs are disappearing and trust in media has hit an all-time low.”

“The model has the potential to be part of a new wave of great local reporting, which is vital to building strong communities,” Rundlet said in the release.

The effort, modeled after the New York City-based Solutions Journalism Network, will start by taking on the affordable housing crisis in Charlotte, where “citizens face increasing difficulty finding affordable places to live close to work, schools and community centers,” said the release.

Among those hardest hit by the lack of low cost housing are “people of color and working class residents,” organizers said in the release.

Collaborative members include: La Noticia, The Charlotte Observer, WCNC-TV, QCity Metro, WFAE 90.7FM and QNotes, as well as the James L. Knight School of Communication at Queens University of Charlotte, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Library and Free Press, a community-engagement organization.

The group expects to begin publishing stories on affordable housing this spring, organizers said.

Formation of the group was led by Michael Davis, south region manager for the Solutions Journalism Network, based in the Charlotte area.

“Creating a Charlotte with more opportunity for people to shape their community and be part of its growth, means ensuring that they are equipped with the information and the avenues they need to contribute,” said Charles Thomas, Knight Foundation program director for Charlotte. “Solutions Journalism will help push this important goal forward.”