It's difficult to say "no" to folks wanting to write a check.
Response to last week's announcement of the new “Fort Worth Press” online, nonprofit newspaper has been nothing short of incredible. Folks from Fort Worth and literally from coast to coast want more Tarrant County news – and guess what? They are willing to pay for it.
Meanwhile, we’ve been hearing from many would-be employees who are ready to come to work, including traditional journalists, digital and social media practitioners, and experts in nonprofit news and marketing.
“Sign me up,” they’re saying.
We are accepting applications, interviewing potential hires, and completing all the necessary steps to make sure we do this right.
Transparency and building walls to avoid conflicts of interest are paramount to FortWorthPress.org., and as fast as we are moving to put everything in order we are also moving cautiously and steadily to have everything in place to ensure the proper safeguards and accountability standards necessary to a nonprofit.
We have secured a tax identification number, started building a website and begun putting together an impressive board of directors, but I do not want to accept donations until our tax-free status is final.
An experienced financial professional with nonprofit experience is volunteering to make certain we follow all the rules and regulations.
If you are among the many who have offered donations, hold those checks. We are taking “pledges,” but will not take money now even though tax-free incentives can be retroactive. You may make pledges to my email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. I will keep you informed of our progress.
What will be in place shortly - we hope by next week - will be our website, FortWorthPress.org. We have begun a slow population of local news stories, photos, and even national and world news. We have the beginning of a sports offering from some of this area's top sports writers and columnists.
At this point we are staffed by an army of folks working for free. Strike that. It's a small but hardy and eager regiment.
The Business Press is providing content for free and donating office space. We’ll be occupying new offices at 3509 Hulen in just over a month.
Clearly, there is a demand and a market for more local news. Our initial reporting will focus on local government and we will build from there to cover police and public safety, courts, environmental issues, education, sports, and entertainment.
The news site will be nonpartisan and the defining standard for our reporting will be simple: fairness.
We will wait until we have money in the bank to make our first hires but the list of those who have contacted us to be reporters is mind-boggling in depth and experience. We expect to have several of this region’s top reporters as well as journalists with national reporting experience at the highest level.
Some of these journalists are currently working in the news business and some have turned to other pursuits as daily newspapers have shrunk and retrenched. In a Feb. 19 story about the news business and nonprofit news providers, the Associated Press reported a telling statistic attributed to a study by the University of North Carolina: “Nearly 1,800 weekly and daily newspapers have closed since 2004, and the number of working journalists has been cut in half during that period.”
Many of those we have heard from love the level of experience we bring to the table. I have been a journalist for 50 years and the nonprofit outlet’s executive editor, Paul Harral, has me beat by a couple of years. Paul held various senior level positions during three decades at the Star-Telegram and before that he worked for other major news organizations and ran news bureaus for a worldwide news service.
We have built news organizations, some from scratch like this one. And we have trained and mentored young journalists just starting their careers, a group that will be well represented on the staff of our new nonprofit. We believe youth will be a crucial component of this effort.
Our initial inquiries to foundations for grants have also begun. We believe we should not start this endeavor without a minimum of $250,000 pledged and expect ultimately to need $500,000 to $1 million to fund the effort.
Our budget calls for two-thirds of the money raised to be spent on news. At many newspapers that amount would be 20 to 25 percent.
I will update all those interested in this project through the Business Press and also on social media, where the response has been spectacular. That isn't surprising. Digital platforms and social media are driving the future of news, although I am a firm believer that niche publications such as the Business Press will be viable for yeas to come
Richard Connor is president and publisher of the Fort Worth Business Press. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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