Hoffman's Houston
more news is good news

Ken Hoffman reports on Houston's ambitious nonprofit news outlet

Ken Hoffman reports on Houston's ambitious nonprofit news outlet

BBVA MFAH Rooftop Garden cocktail reception Rich Kinder
Philanthropists such as Rich Kinder have pumped major funds into this project. Photo courtesy of BBVA

As we reported, new, nonprofit (this one nonprofit on purpose) media operation is coming to Houston, spearheaded by the American Journalism Project and funded by three of our largest philanthropies: Houston Endowment, the Kinder Foundation, and Arnold Ventures.

The news organization doesn’t have a name yet. Its working title is Houston Local News Initiative. First up is a plan to hire a CEO and editor-in-chief and get things cranking for a debut in late 2022 or early next year.

The management team “will be expected to hire and deploy an experienced, diverse workforce and pursue innovative models and emerging best practices in engaging community members to help inform the newsroom’s priorities. It will strive to be the center of conversation about Houston’s critical issues, bridge communities, and foster community engagement, while building a vibrant and active following.”

For the past two years, a research team from the American Journalism Project has conducted in-person interviews and focus groups with 350 Houstonians (so far) across economic, geographic and ethnic lines in four languages: English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Chinese. The project is looking for holes, “information gaps” or “different points of vulnerability” in existing local media. The goal is to provide “more firepower for the Houston media ecosystem.”

Bottom line: give Houstonians what they want and currently find insufficient in terms of news and information.

The project has raised more than $20 million in seed money, targeting Houston for one of the biggest nonprofit news efforts in the U.S. Once it’s up and operating, the project will be free to access for the public.

But what will this news organization read, sound or look like? That’s undecided for now.

A search committee has been formed to hire a CEO and editor-in-chief and it will be up to them to figure out how the project will be presented, who will be on staff, what will be the focus, methods of funding, donors, sponsorships or advertising, and whether there will be a physical newsroom.

As an independent nonprofit news operation, the project hopes to collaborate with existing media outlets.

This project will not be entering an uncrowded landscape. Between one dominant newspaper, five major network news affiliates, hyper-local newspapers, and magazines, a boisterous radio dial, local newspapers and websites (like this one), there's no shortage of Houston news heaped on Houstonians.

The American Journalism Project's mountain will be to do it better, faster, and hit the bull's-eye of what our wide-ranging diversified population is seeking. Fledging operations have tried in the past and failed. This operation is well funded and led by heavyweights, however.

Contrary to the adage, no news is not good news. More news is good news.