|In her parting editorial, owner/reporter Robin Kemp urged readers to support nonprofit news, noting that news deserts see more public corruption.
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After going viral for her 2020 election coverage, this Georgia reporter is closing her one-person news site
|Georgia elections workers process absentee ballots. (AP Photo/Ben Gray)
On Nov. 5, 2020, Robin Kemp walked into a Clayton County, Georgia, building known as “The Bunker” to cover the county’s tabulation of absentee votes. Twenty hours later, Georgia was blue, and Kemp, the only reporter to stay to watch the entire process, had gone viral. Her coverage earned her one-person news outlet thousands of dollars in donations.
That outlet, The Clayton Crescent, closed last week following more than three years of operation. After getting laid off from her job at a local paper, Kemp started the Crescent during the height of the pandemic to provide the county’s nearly 300,000 residents with independent news coverage. But difficulties finding funding and maintaining a nonpartisan board led her to dissolve the company.
“Ultimately, despite the best intentions, too few people in this community were willing or able to support nonprofit news in Clayton County,” Kemp wrote in an editorial announcing the outlet’s closure.
During its run, the Crescent operated on five-figure annual budgets while Kemp made a salary of less than $30,000, she shared in her piece. As the only editorial employee, she was overworked and did not have time to fundraise. Kemp wrote that to survive, the Crescent would have needed at least four more employees — including one noneditorial staffer who could focus on grant writing and fundraising — and a “politically neutral board.”
“The bar I had set was that board members, at least during their time on the board, would recuse themselves from political campaigning during that time. That’s because, as a non-profit, we need to remain nonpartisan. In addition, as a nonprofit news organization serving a small population, I wanted us to remain as neutral as possible,” Kemp wrote. “In short, we could not maintain a board willing to put aside politics long enough to serve effectively.”
In November 2021, the Crescent nearly shut down due to a lack of funding, Atlanta Magazine reported. Though the outlet’s budget was tiny compared to most other news sites, it operated in a low-income region and struggled to find paying subscribers, according to the report.
Kemp has taken a job as an accountability reporter at The Current, Georgia’s only nonprofit investigative news outlet. In her parting editorial for the Crescent, she urged readers to support nonprofit news, noting that news deserts — areas that lack an independent news source — experience more public corruption.
“Clayton County needs to show up for itself. That starts with being honest about what problems plague the county, holding public officials responsible for stewarding taxpayers’ resources, and turning out for local and county elections,” Kemp wrote. “I would add to that to-do list community support for the level of nonprofit news coverage that you deserve. Clayton County deserves a real nonprofit news operation, not a hey-kids-let’s-put-on-a-show project.”
By Angela Fu, media business reporter
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Look what Swifties made Gannett do
|Taylor Swift arrives at the MTV Video Music Awards on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023, at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)
Speak now, Taylor Swift megafans in journalism.
USA Today and The Tennessean are seeking a Taylor Swift reporter, specifically “an experienced, video-forward journalist to capture the music and cultural impact of Taylor Swift.”
To take up the mantle of Swiftie journalism, the applicant will have to “quench an undeniable thirst for all things Taylor Swift,” touching on her fanbase, her effect on the music industry and larger business trends while providing thoughtful analysis of her work and career.
Could an investment in a full-time reporter to cover a specific musician be a sign everything has changed around courting readers at Gannett? One reporting position doesn’t get Gannett out of the woods, but a gold rush of reading material for Swift’s massive online fanbase can’t hurt.
Automated sports stories were obviously trouble when they walked in, but does dedicating resources to reporting and analysis on a globally significant artist — and one with undeniable audience appeal — make Gannett CEO Mike Reed some kind of a mastermind?
Puns aside, critics of Gannett offered a swift opinion: Absolutely not. Once the job listing circulated on social media, reporters pointed to the awkward intentions behind the position at a time when many local newspapers are still struggling to recover from downsizing and layoffs.
“Nashville is getting a Taylor Swift reporter,” Chalkbeat Memphis education reporter Laura D. Testino posted. “Memphis is still without an investigative reporter.”
Emily Bloch, a reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer and a former reporter for the Gannett-owned Florida Times-Union, used the job listing’s puns in her own critique: “Feeling 💫 bad blood 🩸 over Gannett’s 💰 new money 💰 while refusing to let local papers hire all the positions that dried up or laid off 😢 Notice how there’s no salary listed either? ‘There’s only so far new money goes’ ✨✨✨.”
“The USA TODAY Network is committed to serving our communities across America with journalism that is essential to millions of readers, viewers and listeners,” said Kristin Roberts, Gannett’s chief content officer, in a statement to The Daily Beast in an article that juxtaposes the job listing with Gannett’s layoffs over the last year. “And that includes providing our audience with content they crave.”
It’s an indication that Gannett is investing in more easily digestible content that will likely succeed as a top-of-funnel tactic. In a perfect world, those successes (and, in theory, revenue) would bolster a greater journalistic mission.
To the reporter who takes this job and wades into the discourse around it: You’re on your own, kid.
By Annie Aguiar, audience engagement producer
It’s the hope that kills you
|Football fans watch play between the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills of an NFL football game, Monday, Sept. 11, 2023, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)
There have been many headlines about New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ season-ending injury. During the final game of the first week of this new NFL season, and after just four plays, Rodgers suffered a torn Achilles tendon.
A piece from The Ringer by Danny Heifetz resonated for its reflection on football, fandom and the agony that comes from both.
(It was written after the game but prior to the official announcement of the torn Achilles, and later updated with an editor’s note to say that following a Tuesday MRI, the tear was confirmed.)
Heifetz wrote, “As the fans say in Ted Lasso, it’s the hope that kills you. …
Multiple Jets beat reporters tweeted that they had never felt such energy at a sporting event, let alone a Jets game. But four snaps, one pass attempt, a sack, and a cart ride to the locker room later, Rodgers might be done for the season. For a fan base who usually protects itself from hope, it was devastating.”
Heifetz provided a bit of Jets history, captured the “Monday Night Football” moment and reminded readers what this beloved game is full of: pain. Glory, too, but a lot of pain.
By Kayla Randall, assistant editor
The Economist adds a subscriber tier for podcasts
The Economist is introducing a subscription tier for its audio content, charging $4.90 a month for access to Economist Podcasts+.
First reported by Axios’ Sara Fischer, the new tier will place all of the Economist’s podcasts behind the paywall, with the exception of its daily current affairs show “The Intelligence.”
Some news publishers are moving to premium content models for their podcasts after hopping onto the podcast boom of the last decade, with uneven results. Both The New York Times and NPR moved to premium audio offerings this year.
A Pew Research report from April found that while most podcast listeners say they hear news discussed on podcasts, only one in five listeners say they listen to a podcast connected to a news organization.
Given that limited reach within the general public, it makes sense for news publishers to double down on the people that are already listening and push them toward subscriptions.
By Annie Aguiar, audience engagement producer
Media tidbits and links
- Richard Tofel, founding general manager of ProPublica, offers best wishes — but also words of caution and a call for a bit more humility — for the $500 million Press Forward effort to help local news in his Substack, Second Rough Draft.
- What’s the AP Style guideline for “ugh?” The Associated Press says a data breach of the stylebook opens up customers to targeted phishing attacks. “While this was not a significant data breach, with only 224 customers impacted, the login credentials for journalists and media companies are highly sought after by cybercriminals,” Lawrence Abrams reports for Bleeping Computer.
- Biography writer extraordinaire and former CNN CEO and Time editor Walter Isaacson is walking back a major claim in his just-published book, a biography of Elon Musk. After The Washington Post published an excerpt from the book Thursday, Musk refuted the way Isaacson characterized his deployment of Starlink satellites over Crimea. Isaacson clarified his point on X, but the book will not include that update, at least until a later pressing. For more, the Post’s Paul Farhi has “Elon Musk biographer concedes flaw in account of war in Ukraine.”
- The Pulitzer Prize board will amend its citizenship requirement in Books, Drama and Music to include permanent residents of the United States and those who have made the United States their longtime primary home.
- Former NFL Network reporter Jim Trotter is suing the league for racial discrimination and retaliation. For more, The Washington Post’s Ben Strauss with “NFL reporter Jim Trotter sues league for racial discrimination.”
- The Atlantic has an urgent story with impressive visual treatment to match. It’s Ellen Cushing with illustrations by Somnath Bhatt with “Three simple rules for managing your privacy.”
- The Associated Press reports, “Nobel winner Maria Ressa acquitted of tax evasion though she faces 2 more legal cases.”
- ProPublica’s Bianca Fortis and independent journalist Laura Beil, with photography by New York Magazine’s Hannah Whitaker, with “How Columbia Ignored Women, Undermined Prosecutors and Protected a Predator For More Than 20 Years.”
More resources for journalists
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