{ 8 Lessons Learned From New Journalism Business Models }

March 29, 2014 § 4 Comments

Media entrepreneurs shared their experiences with “New Journalism Business Models” yesterday at the Association of Healthcare Journalists conference. It was one of those wonderful, enlightening situations where I realized how much I don’t know. The panelists were driven, sophisticated and compassionate. My new heroes. Here you go:

All of these newsrooms began in the mid-2000s or later. Since then, one has merged with a university, and a couple more have shuffled under the umbrella of existing news organizations (à la the St. Louis Beacon). After first hitting “publish” in 2009, the Texas Tribune now has a staff of 50, including 18 full-time reporters and other support in tech, finance, sponsorship sales and others. You can learn a lot more from them and others at news-biz.org.

{ Fill a niche. }

Don’t do anything that duplicates what others are doing.

{ Set priorities.}

For instance, the Texas Tribune has always been about state politics and public policy. Even if there’s a big shooting near their office (or some other big event), they won’t cover it unless there’s a policy focus. Similarly, Rose Hoban’s motto is, “If it didn’t happen in North Carolina, it didn’t happen.”

{ Stand on a four-legged stool. }

This is how I-News made enough to support themselves:

  1. grants and donations
  2. earned revenue, including an investigative journalism camp for high school students
  3. underwriting
  4. pay for content, where I-News does a major investigation and shares with other media

{ Better yet, get an eight-leg stool. }

And Texas Tribune doubled down:

  1. startup funding from a huge venture capitalist
  2. corporate sponsorships (underwriting)
  3. events sponsored by companies (60 in a year, including an annual three-day festival)
  4. small membership (less than $1,000 per year)
  5. major gifts ($1,000+ per year)
  6. subscriptions to a few of their paid products
  7. paid syndication
  8. crowdfunding

For details, see their “Who Funds Us?” page.

{ Marry well? }

Rose Hoban showed us the budget for North Carolina Health News. The “Editor” line read $0. “That’s me,” she said. “I haven’t earned a salary in two years. My husband is awesome, and he respects fact that I’ve been hustling and working my ass off to make this happen.”

{ Find revenue that doesn’t need a crystal ball. }

It’s not so much about donated revenue vs. earned revenue. The issue is predictable revenue vs. nonpredictable. Foundations and major donors aren’t predictable. Earned revenue strategies, products and small donors tend to be the strongest income you can predict.

{ Evolve, but carefully. }

The panelists predicted what they’re next steps are for their organizations. Afterward, Tim Griggs told me how Texas Tribune developed their entrepreneurial reporting really well before they were ready to move into investigative projects. Now, they’re seeking understanding of 1) who their audience is, 2) what they want audience to be and 3) how to evaluate the publication’s impact. “The challenge is not just for nonprofit news organizations, but for everyone: How do you, in a way that makes sense and is not anecdotal, convince sponsors that it matters?”

{ Give us five years. }

Roger that. While they get their funding ducks in a row, us young’ns can build capital and hop in after the wheel gets invented. Good luck to everyone!



{ 25 years of Missouri Stream Team }

March 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

Folks, I’m a polyblogger. It’s a lot like a pollywog, in that my baby writings are floating around the Internet, and only one or two will survive to print-publication adulthood.

The water-themed reference is apt, because my latest venture is the Missouri Stream Team 25th Anniversary Blog. We’re commemorating a quarter-century of one of the state’s biggest volunteer environmental efforts. With only one year to celebrate, there’s no holding back on content. Not only will this be a clearinghouse of information for the 25+ celebratory events happening across the state, we’re also posting cool archival finds, current advocacy alerts, and stream-related news nationwide.


Because it’s run by the Missouri Stream Team Watershed Coalition, we’ll have access to leaders with lots of collective stewardship wisdom. Our goal is to create a culture around the blog, Stream Team, and Missouri environment through storytelling and conversation. If you love clean water, you should follow the blog and come along for the ride! I’ll see you there.

{ Crawdads, Caddisflies and Clifty Creek }

March 22, 2014 § 3 Comments

Every day during elementary school, my bus driver forded Clifty Creek in our yellow school bus, driving nose-down on a steep gravel road, then climbing straight up again. He did this every day, that is, unless the rains were bad. Then, it was an hour detour around that low-water bridge in some rural school emergency orchestration that I’d never want to plan myself.

Unarguably, my great-grandfather had it worse: the mother of one of his school mates had to give him a ride to the other side on her horse.

clifty_creek_conservation area

On second thought, that sounds a little more efficient than a one-hour detour.

Both my favorite and the most frustrating thing about the part of Missouri where my family is from is how cut-off it feels from the rest of civilization. There’s Clifty Creek to contend with, sure, and crossing the Gasconade River was even trickier. Add to that the consistently rocky and hilly terrain, other creeks, and the Big Piney River, and it’s easy to find yourself wanting to get somewhere half a mile away and driving twenty-eight to actually get there.

This does have its up-side. Because southeast Maries County/northeast Pulaski County is so untouchable, it has, for centuries, remained untouched.

Clifty Creek was the state’s first natural area, designated in 1971, and became a conservation area under the Missouri Department of Conservation in 1984.

I never explicitly knew that. To me, Clifty Creek was that spot near the water crossing, just off of the gravel road (private property, I’ve since learned). When family visited, the older kids and my uncles would always head upstream to see its famous natural arch. My grandmother never let me go with them, so I splashed around near the road and got my toes bitten by minnows. (She also never allowed me in deep water, so I still can’t swim.)

Much later, after I had moved from Dixon and graduated high school, a couple of friends and I went on a Route 66 trip. I suggested stopping by my old home place and expected to just hang out at that low-water bridge, but that same year a 2.3-mile trail in the conservation area was opened. We didn’t make it to the natural arch (foiled again!), but it was a good taste of the glades and woodlands.

It’s hard to separate my sentimental feelings from the experience of hiking there, but I will say this: the Gasconade dolomite on the trail seems to sparkle, the biodiversity is plain to see, and the water is crystal clear.

I often bring friends here with me, paired with Bluegrass Pickin’ Time and Elbow Inn. The weather’s usually warmer and we get in the water and meet more crawdads. The Spothanded Crayfish and Golden Crayfishes pictured above are fairly common and found in the same places together. I know we’ve seen at least four or five distinct species at one time before. Next trip, I’ll come armed with my copy of William L. Pflieger’s The Crayfishes of Missouri, which I almost just typed as “Crazyfishes of Missouri.” Also accurate.

The goal today was mostly to move around and be in the sun, but I managed to score a few bird finds, see a groundhog and a little brown bat, and — most exciting — I got to watch this caddisfly larva do his thing. Caddisflies are known to glamp under the right conditions, but I’ll leave you with the naturally fancy one from today:

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{ Equinox launch for new Winter magazine }

March 20, 2014 § 1 Comment

In a small sweep of irony, a new magazine called Winter dropped today. Both the content and paper is light toward the start and heavy in the middle, just like the season itself. Read an interview with the publisher, Kati Krause, at Stack.

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{ A Confederate Soldier’s Thoughts on Human Trafficking }

March 18, 2014 § Leave a comment

Observed by my friend and former art professor Matt Ballou:

Portrait of Jeremy Grove from Matt Ballou’s “Becoming the Student” series.

“A good thing to come from my participation in reenactments is that we highlight a time when slavery was an issue. The reality is that human trafficking is still an issue; slavery is still an issue. And if, through my portraying a Confederate soldier, I can have conversations and engage with people – and ultimately raise awareness of the reality that human trafficking is perhaps worse now than it has ever been in history – then I feel that it’s a good way to use history to learn from our past and make a change.” – Jeremy Grove

Emphasis my own. Really striking thoughts coming from a Confederate reenactor, a symbol so easy to stereotype—for some people, anyway. (And by “some people,” I mean Northerners. And by “Northerners,” I don’t mean to imply Missouri is part of the South.) Read more from the “2nd Corporal, 3rd Missouri Infantry, CSA.”

Matt, the artist, is a thoughtful, passionate, lightning-bolt-and-ensuing-slow-fire of a person, and I’m proud to know him. He has been blogging for years and recently started a series of posts called “Becoming the Student,” where he shares a portrait and pieces of wisdom from the people he draws. This is the sixth. Go check him out at his blog, eikonktizo! « Read the rest of this entry »

{ Stories about Missourians }

March 15, 2014 § 2 Comments

The very best thing about having a part-time data entry job is all the podcasts I get to listen to. How do people in repetitive jobs get by without them? I go to work for about four hours each afternoon and minus the interaction with coworkers (another bonus, because they’re great people and probably healthier to talk to than the plants in my home office), that gives me at least enough time to go through one or two Longform podcasts, catch up with Story Collider, and enjoy One Species at a Time, if it would ever update on iTunes. I think of it as professional development.

In the last couple of weeks, great stories about Missourians have popped into my earbuds. Yes!! Here’s a sample, but if you’ve heard others, I’d love to give them a listen.

{ SINGING NUNS } “Monastic Life at the Top of the Charts” – NPR’s Music Interviews
Nuns living in a tiny town north of Kansas City are topping the Billboard classical charts, and they don’t even know it.

{ A CURIOUS CASE } “Except for that One Thing” – WBEZ’s This American Life
A St. Louis man is being held in prison for a crime he committed decades ago. He never served time because nobody called him for a it. Clerical error. A lot to thing about in regards to the justice system. The Riverfront Times follows up here.

{ MURDERERS, FIDDLERS, ETC. } “Ozarks: Full Circle” – State of the Re:Union
More prison, a few more happy endings, and a lot of fiddles. This is an old one because, 20 hours a week affords the luxury of archived shows. I’m really happy my radio friend Abigail introduced me to this podcast because it’s everything I love about storytelling. This particular show paints the Ozarks with the same simple brush I referenced in my last post, but it’s focused on love, redemption, and tight-knit communities. If an outsider’s going to come tell our story, this is a good crew to do it.

{ OUR FAVORITE UKRANIAN } “Yakov Smirnoff” – WTF with Marc Maron
Another oldie, and not exactly a Missourian. Yakov‘s been hanging out in Branson since 1993, after his, “What a country!” hook crumbled with the Berlin Wall, and I’ve grown up watching his commercials, so I’m claiming him. I love how deep Marc Maron gets with all his guests, and this is no exception. Did you know Mr. Smirnoff’s branching into positive psychology? He teaches a class at MSU. I also learned a lot about Soviet Russia, like that there existed an actual “Ministry of Jokes.” WTF indeed.

{ THE NEXT BIG THING } Everything on Heart on Yer Sleeve Radio
Abigail strikes again, this time with her own audio project interviewing people off the street, which inherently means Missouri because she doesn’t own a car. Good stuff. It’s probably telling that I was not surprised in the slightest by Cary’s story about puppet evangelists. South/south-central Missourians…that’s just what we do. The latest is from Steve, who tells a nerdy little story about Humans vs. Zombies.

So, now you know a little more about me. What are you listening to? And where are all the good Midwest and journalism stories? My greatest fear is that I’ll run out of Longform episodes, which is feasible if I listened to it straight for a month. So seriously, please comment!

{ Stacy Kranitz: representation in an exploited place }

March 11, 2014 § 2 Comments

Do you come from a place that outsiders get wrong? That’s probably everywhere, right? I know for here, people drive through Missouri on I-70 and just see corn fields, or they know about the Ozarks and think it’s only populated with slow, happy hillbillies. However, I don’t think many people know what to think of the Midwest, or even if they ever do {evidence}. That’s quite different from Appalachia, which invokes broad images of poverty and pretty mountains with pretty much anyone you talk to. I started thinking about this when I came upon the art of Stacy Kranitz a few days ago.

From "Chasing Meth in Laurel County, Kentucky" | Mother Jones

From “Chasing Meth in Laurel County, Kentucky” | Mother Jones

“It became evident that Appalachia was a place where representation had long been vexed,” Kranitz told Mother Jones in a Q&A about her photo essay on meth. In the series, “As It Was Given to Me,” her Appalachia photos trail through the expected foggy mountainscapes and scenes poolgoers draped in American flag towels to the surprising, like portraits of gold-bedazzled men grabbing each others’ thighs and a woman standing between a Native American flag and KKK statue.

To introduce the series, Kranitz writes:

I am initially drawn to stereotypes. Then I look to demystify these stereotypes only to find that they are rooted in some sort of reality. I do not (cannot) exclude the stereotypical image from my representations.

The resulting images are interwoven with both typical and atypical lives captured through controlled and chance operations in the central Appalachian region of America. Ultimately the photographs highlight the flaws of representation in a place with an extensive history of exploitative othering by outsiders.

Photo by Stacy Kranitz
Photo by Stacy Kranitz

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