Goal is to inspire a business model for journalists affected by downsizing
Andrew Pantazi was one of dozens of people who recently took a buyout from The Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. After eight years at the newspaper, he thought it was time to venture out on his own and create something that would fill a void in the community.
After a single tweet indicating he was leaving and starting a newsletter, he quickly had 200 subscribers and nearly $10,000 in support.
Pantazi will focus on topics that are not covered regularly by other media outlets in town, such as poverty, injustice and power. A key differentiator for Pantazi’s business model is industry collaboration.
“The Tributary will be set up as a nonprofit organization that collaborates with Jacksonville’s existing media organizations to provide quality, in-depth investigative journalism about solutions,” Pantazi said. “Instead of cannibalizing the current media landscape, we will empower print, television, radio and other media by ensuring high-quality investigative reporting is widely read with the most impact.”
Local Media Association decided to support this launch in an effort to inspire a business model for other journalists feeling the impact of layoffs and buyouts, according to Nancy Lane, LMA chief executive officer.
“We’ve been looking to invest in a digital startup experiment for some time,” Lane said. “After meeting Andrew, we knew this was the right one for us. His approach is refreshingly different, with a strong emphasis on collaboration with other media outlets in the market. We’ll share our learnings every step of the way.”
LMA will provide coaching and access to subject-matter experts along with financial support of up to $35,000. The funds will be used for non-operating expenses such as new enabling technology, freelancers, setting up the nonprofit structure and more. Penny Riordan, director of business strategy and partnerships for LMA, will serve as the project manager.
For the first six months, the project will focus on four key areas: membership, journalism funded by philanthropy, branded content and virtual events. LMA will work with Pantazi to get a website launched that includes the ability to accept reader revenue. The Google News Initiative has agreed to provide resources for one year to get the website up and running on the Newspack content management platform.
“By the end of 2021, we hope to showcase a model that can work for other journalists in towns all over North America,” Lane said. “Experiments like this one, and many others that are out there, are so important because no clear-cut business model exists right now.”