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Fort Worth Nonprofit To Step Into News Gap In Tarrant County

A picture of Fort Worth's downtown skyline. Glass skyscrapers and tan concrete buildings stand against a cloudy blue sky at sunset.
Leena Robinson
/
Shutterstock

A brand-new news outlet is setting up shop in Fort Worth.

The Fort Worth Report will launch this year as a free, online news outlet focusing on government accountability, education and the arts.

The Report brought on Chris Cobler as CEO and publisher. He has had a long career as a newspaper editor, most recently at the Victoria Advocate.

He said the Fort Worth Report’s goal is to meet the demand for in-depth coverage of the city.

"Research shows, in communities where there's less local journalism, that the community suffers," Cobler said. "It suffers financially, because taxes go up, and government borrowing goes up, because there's just less accountability."

Cobler said the site will start out with five or six team members, and he’s working on hiring right now. He’ll measure success by how important the Report’s work becomes to people’s lives.

"If it goes spectacularly well, people in Fort Worth and Tarrant County will every day say, did you see that in the Report? Did you see that? Did you check that out?” he said. “We will be an integral part of the fabric of the community."

The newspaper industry has been in decline for years, in part because the Internet stole the ad revenue newspapers rely on. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made things worse. Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 60 local newsrooms have shuttered across the country.

Fort Worth’s main news source is facing similar challenges. Last year, reporters at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram formed a union in response to 20 years of layoffs and buyouts that diminished the newsroom. The union plans to advocate for better wages and stronger layoff protections for reporters there.

The Fort Worth Report is a nonprofit, and its initial funding comes from The Burnett Foundation. It will also rely on contributions, grants and business sponsorships.

The outlet worked with the News Revenue Hub, an organization that works with news organizations to improve their business models, to determine what areas to cover.

The News Revenue Hub conducted surveys and talked to focus groups, and found that news consumers in Fort Worth feel like existing reporting does not responsibly cover communities of color, or delve deep enough into the inner workings of city government.

The focus groups also showed a desire for solutions-based journalism — stories that don’t just point out a problem, but also explores ways to fix it.

Cobler said the Fort Worth Report will base its priorities on those findings.

“We’re truly not going into this with any kind of a political agenda at all. We really want what’s best for Fort Worth and Tarrant County, and we think what’s best for Fort Worth and Tarrant County comes through really good local journalism,” he said.

Cobler said the plan is to start sending out a newsletter in March, with a full website launch sometime this spring.

Got a tip? Email Miranda Suarez at msuarez@kera.org. You can follow Miranda on Twitter @MirandaRSuarez.

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