Chris Libonati. Photo by Mike Greenlar

Central Current hired its first full-time staff reporter, thanks to funding and support from local philanthropic foundations.

Chris Libonati, who has five years of reporting experience in Syracuse, began his work at Central Current last week. He is covering government, accountability and equity issues.

The reporter position was created through funding from the Reisman Foundation and Allyn Foundation, both located in Central New York.

The Dorothy and Marshall M. Reisman Foundation is supporting a reporter position for three years at $50,000 per year. The Allyn Family Foundation has committed $45,000 over three years, to help support the reporting staff and general operations of Central Current.

Central Current, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, independent news website, has several applications pending with other local and national nonprofits. Central Current was founded in 2020, and brought on editor-in-chief Julie McMahon at the beginning of 2022. The newsroom recently rolled out a newly-designed website and will begin publishing next week.

Libonati brings to Central Current a strong a track record of watchdog and accountability reporting over the last five years, during which he worked as a crime reporter for The Post-Standard and Syracuse.com.

Libonati’s reporting has won statewide awards and recognition, and led to action from local officials. He revealed in 2020 that taxpayers paid more than $200,000 to Syracuse police officers who were at home during the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, triggering an audit. His reporting also uncovered that a police gun unit was disproportionately stopping Black residents and charging them with marijuana offenses, right before the drug was legalized in the state.

Libonati is a graduate of Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. He was a sports intern at the Richmond Times-Dispatch and an editor at The Daily Orange student newspaper.

Libonati is always on the prowl for news tips and story ideas. He can be reached at libonati@centralcurrent.org or 585-290-0718.

Julie McMahon

Julie McMahon is editor-in-chief of Central Current. She's worked in journalism for a decade, mostly in Central NY, as a reporter, editor and professor. Contact Julie at 315-399-7193 or jmcmahon@centralcurrent.org.