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Revamping the newsroom: New ventures take a fresh look at journalism

illustration of digital publishing tools

In a climate of misinformation and low (but improving) trust in the media, finding new ways to source stories, distribute them and grow an audience will be critical to a publication’s success.

The legacy journalism environment that gave rise to such industry icons as Ben Bradlee, A.M. Rosenthal and Katharine Graham is undergoing tectonic shifts, making way for a new breed of publishers and journalists. In response to the current environment — the sweeping information overload felt by many readers, the proliferation of news deserts and the lack of trust many young people have toward their least-liked news source (64% believe the source hurts democracy) — this new breed of publishers is looking to transform how story ideas are developed and delivered to readers, and how revenue is generated.

Here are a few innovative publishers worth looking into.

1. Tortoise Media: “Do less but better”

Tortoise Media is a venture by former BBC News director James Harding that offers a “different kind of newsroom.” Rather than chasing breaking news stories, which can exhaust readers and journalists alike, and also give rise to shallow reporting, Tortoise Media gives stories more time to develop.

The “slow news” outlet launched in beta in January 2019 with more than 2,500 members and since then has grown to more than 8,000 members. It got off to a great start on Kickstarter, receiving more than 7x its initial funding goal.

Tortoise’s lower-priced tiers give this reader-funded journalism accessibility to a wide range of members, critical for attracting a younger audience. And it’s working. Publisher and cofounder Katie Vanneck-Smith told Digiday that 42% of the founding members are under 30 years old.

The staff of 50 aims to publish five stories per day, maximum. The stories provide in-depth coverage on a variety of topics, some of which are suggested by non-journalists or experts in other fields. Tortoise also hosts regular “ThinkIns,” discussions attended by both editors and members that Harding has referred to as “organized listening” and “civilized disagreements.”

2. THE CITY: Independent nonprofit, yet part of the network

THE CITY was created to fill the gap left by the shuttering of the Village Voice and DNAinfo, and layoffs at local New York City outlets like the Daily News. The staff of about 15 covers NYC-specific news topics like transportation, housing and real estate, immigration and criminal justice.

The news outlet launched last fall with $8.5 million in seed funding from donors including the Charles H. Revson Foundation, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, the Leon Levy Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Although THE CITY is an independent nonprofit publication, the digital startup partners with New York Magazine, which provides tech, editorial, design and distribution support. Articles from THE CITY are published on New York Magazine’s CMS Clay and are viewable on the magazine’s website. The two outlets also plan to work together on future enterprise stories.

This unusual setup means THE CITY’s writing has a direct line to New York Magazine’s large audience.

According to former New York Magazine editor-in-chief Adam Moss, “We believe that our partnership with THE CITY provides a new, replicable model for how nonprofit and for-profit journalism can work together.”

3. Kinzen: Creating a personalized, healthy news habit

Kinzen is a news app that puts users in control of their news experience. Cofounded by Storyful founder Mark Little and based in Dublin, Ireland, Kinzen is community-led and member-driven. With an absence of advertisements, it’s basically the opposite of social media news delivery.

By using a network of experts to share and discuss quality news stories from diverse sources, the “top-down, ‘curated’ organization” works to counter the spread of misinformation and dishonest sourcing.

In April 2019, Kinzen raised €500,000 in funding — a solid showing for the digital news service that aims to provide “news to fit the rhythm of your day.” Members can choose their channel of interest and preferred time of day for reading the news. For example, if you only want to read content during your lunch break or commute to and from work, the app allows you to customize it.

To create a more “mindful” news routine, Kinzen bases content suggestions off members’ concrete feedback, rather than what’s in their browsing history. This is a more effective metric than just measuring clicks and likes. As Little explained to, “We are hoping to make users empowered, giving you the ability to construct some form of filter and ranking system that reflects your intentions and not your instincts.”

4. Collaborative journalism projects: Sharing the load

Covering topics in-depth takes time and resources that not every outlet has. We’ve recently seen several great examples of publishers pooling their resources to craft some incredible journalism.

  • Ten local newsrooms joined forces in the months leading up to Chicago’s municipal elections in April to create, a local voting guide. Each news partner was able to focus on its strengths to create the site, which received 70,000 unique visitors and 2,000 newsletter subscriptions over the course of election season. Fernando Díaz, editor and publisher of the Chicago Reporter, one of the project partners, said, “If we join forces, we can distribute the load so everyone is not doing the same thing. We can complement each other.”
  • In North Carolina, 11 news organizations and more than 30 people worked together to produce Seeking Conviction, an investigative series on sexual assault convictions in the state. The outlets shared a Google Drive folder that included guides, plans and goals. To create the stories, they went through three gigabytes of data and held three listening sessions with survivors, attorneys and healthcare providers.
  • In July, two collaborative climate change projects focusing on the Delaware River Watershed and Ohio Watershed were announced. Local newsrooms will partner with The National Geographic Society, which will provide its network of visual journalists and scientific experts, among other resources. Newsrooms taking part in the Ohio Watershed Reporting Collaborative include PublicSource, Allegheny Front, 100 Days in Appalachia, Louisville Public Media, The Ohio Center for Investigative Journalism, Belt Magazine and Environmental Health News. This is one of many recent climate change journalism projects. Stefanie Murray, director of the Center for Cooperative Media, told Poynter, “Complex topics, investigations and issues that impact a lot of people lend themselves well to journalistic collaboration.”

5. Noteworthy: Crowdfunding investigative journalism

Currently in beta, Noteworthy is a digital news platform that produces investigative journalism based on story suggestions from the public. “We want to create a new platform for supporting important journalism, one where reporters and members of the public can team up to deliver the stories that matter,” the site explains.

Noteworthy is a project from, a leading online news source in Ireland, and is partly funded by Google’s Digital News Innovation Fund.

The model is broken down into a three-part process: Readers suggest story ideas that they think need more investigating; Noteworthy creates a proposal; that proposal is taken back to the community to generate funding for the reporting.

According to a case study by Engaged Journalism Accelerator, 14 stories have been funded so far and €15,000 pledged, making it clear that readers are willing to pay for stories they want to see published.

Looking Forward

As the media landscape continues to evolve, so will the news model.

The continuing growth of AI, podcasts and newsletters, and the shift to digital, are opening doors for traditional and non-traditional outlets alike to try something new.

In a climate of misinformation and low (but improving) trust in the media, finding new ways to source stories, distribute them and grow an audience will be critical to a publication’s success.

See original post on Beyond Bylines.


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