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I have exciting news to share.

Today, we’re announcing a partnership between The Fresno Bee and Fresnoland Media – a local nonprofit – that adds four journalists who will deeply cover land use, water, housing and neighborhood opportunity.

These are important issues, and The Bee is and has been covering them. However, additional reporting will allow us to reach into communities we haven’t recently connected with and cover more of the many opportunities and challenges that exist in our region.

The Fresnoland Lab expands on The Bee’s venture into philanthropic support for local journalism.

Danielle Bergstrom, who founded Fresnoland Media in 2018, will serve as the lab’s Policy and Engagement Editor. I first connected with Danielle nearly a year ago, and we immediately saw the potential of this partnership.

Danielle is an urban planner with more than a dozen years of experience working in local government and philanthropy. She brings a wealth of knowledge on public policy, water and land use issues. She will work collaboratively with the lab’s other journalists: an editor, an engagement reporter and a water/development reporter.

Danielle has been a leader in building funding support for Fresnoland Media and the Fresnoland Lab. She now will transition away from that role, with The Bee and McClatchy taking the lead.

The James Irvine Foundation, Central Valley Community Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative have contributed to fully fund the first year of the Fresnoland Lab.

Fresnoland builds on the foundation set by the Education Lab, which got liftoff in December. The four-person team of journalists is taking a deep dive into coverage of critical education issues in the central San Joaquin Valley. Donor funding helps us do meaningful work.

As with Education Lab, all of the Fresnoland Lab’s reporting will have a firewall between funders and journalists. Funders cannot “buy” stories or influence the journalism in any way. Supporters of the Fresnoland Lab understand this and realize it’s essential to our credibility and theirs. All of the content produced will follow the same standards of any journalism published by The Bee and will be edited and published through the existing framework of the newsroom.

What the lab will do

Water, land use and development will form the core of the lab’s reporting. We’ll help people understand issues that will shape our region’s future – Fresno and Fresno County general plans, housing availability and affordability, and groundwater management.

A new and critical component of the lab is the Civic Documenters program, which will train 20 to 30 citizen journalists. They will attend and document public meetings throughout the region. CityLab pioneered this concept. The reporting created by this program will be available to the community through an online portal and will be used as source material for the Fresnoland Lab.

The Fresnoland Lab will also host eight Public Newsroom convenings covering a variety of topics. The events will offer childcare services to make them accessible to working families and will offer Spanish and Hmong translation.

Next steps

Sharing deeper and more engaging local news and information is at the forefront of what we’re doing at The Fresno Bee. This is our commitment to you.

On Tuesday, we announced that The Bee team will move to new quarters in the Bitwise 41 building by the end of the month – a new beginning in a location that better serves our current needs as a digital news organization.

When the Fresnoland Lab is fully staffed, The Bee’s newsroom will have added nine donor-supported journalists since the summer of 2019. This includes four in Education Lab and one Report for America reporter who covers poverty as part of the California Divide project. In June, The Bee also will add a second Report for America reporter to cover Latino issues – bringing the number of new Bee journalists to 10.

That’s right: By June there will be 10 additional reporters and editors working at The Bee than there were a year ago. And they’re here in service to you.

We continue to look for new ways to augment the lab model with other topics. I will keep you posted as we continue along this journey.

As always, I welcome your questions, story suggestions and feedback.

Find out more: Read a Q&A with Danielle Bergstrom of the Fresnoland Lab here.

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