THE CITY is an independent, nonprofit news outlet dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York. Our reporters pound the pavement in all five boroughs, working with New Yorkers to tell their stories and make their lives better. We’re here to listen to New Yorkers, dig into their concerns and deliver stories that drive the public conversation and set the agenda on key issues. At a time when the media has been upended by technological, economic and political shifts, we want to reconnect people back to local news – and reconnect local news to getting action.
The strength of THE CITY’s nonprofit, diversified financing model enables it to make its stories available to the public at no cost. THE CITY also will be a partner to fellow local journalists and news outlets across NYC – actively encouraging republishing and reuse of its work.
New York Media, the parent company of New York Magazine, was the first journalistic organization to recognize and embrace THE CITY’s critical value to New Yorkers – and generously made its comprehensive expertise and resources available to assist with all aspects of development. This support includes invaluable leadership in the design, launch and maintenance of THE CITY’s website, along with a royalty-free license to Clay, New York Media’s content management system. A link to THE CITY’s website appears on the New York Magazine home page.
Why We’re Here
New Yorkers Need Local News
Robust and authoritative local journalism is the lifeblood of civil society. It provides a basis for common knowledge, holds institutions of power to account, and affords a platform for public discourse. At its best, local journalism wields impact for the common good.
THE CITY arrives at a life-or-death moment for local news in New York City. “What had been a crisis has become an emergency, akin to a health epidemic, and time is not on our side,” Kyle Pope, publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review, wrote in 2018 after the Daily News eliminated half of its already reduced staff.
Despite the best efforts of hyperlocal news sites and other specialized news outlets, a recent survey found multiple “hyper local news deserts” throughout the city, leaving entire boroughs underserved for neighborhood coverage. The closure of local news platforms, including the Village Voice and DNAinfo, combined with the dramatic downsizing of many other local reporting teams, has had a catastrophic impact on broad, consistent reporting on local affairs.
This absence could not come at a worse moment in our city’s history. At nearly 9 million residents, New York boasts its largest population ever, growing at a rate not seen since the early 20th century. The city budget, at more than $92 billion in 2019, is also the largest ever. From climate resilience to affordability, transportation to public safety and criminal justice reform, the issues confronting New Yorkers have rarely been more numerous or complex. Meanwhile, voter turnout in our last mayoral election was a dismal 26%; just 12% participated in the primary.
A Broader Crisis
The situation in New York reflects dire national trends. Since 2004, 20% of all metro and community newspapers in the United States have gone out of business or merged, leaving a patchwork of “news deserts” across the country. Almost 200 counties have no local newspaper at all. Nearly 60% of all newspaper jobs have been eliminated since 1990–more than in the steel or coal industries, where national narratives of decline have taken hold.
These grim statistics reveal more than the failure of a business model. There is growing evidence that the crisis of local journalism is also a crisis of democracy. Recent studies find:
• The closure of local newspapers leads to an increase in municipal borrowing costs, as government financing isn’t scrutinized.
• Citizens’ political knowledge and participation diminish in tandem with less coverage of local elections.
• The decline of local reporting has contributed to the “nationalization of American politics” and its intense polarization.
A New Model for News
There is a bright spot in an otherwise bleak landscape, however: nonprofit, nonpartisan news organizations. While a handful are decades old, most emerged in the mid-2000s as the financial situation confronting newspapers worsened. “In the wake of this profession-wide crisis, a few dozen pioneering journalists with the help of foundations and donors launched local and national digital news start-ups,” writes Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy in a 2018 report.
There are now more than 200 nonprofit newsrooms across the country, employing nearly 2,200 journalists. Raising support from civic foundations, philanthropic individuals, and readers, they boast a combined annual revenue approaching $350 million. And growth is accelerating.
While these numbers pale in comparison to what’s been lost at the local level over the past decades, nonprofit news organizations have worked to fill critical gaps in coverage and have made significant impact. The Texas Tribune now boasts the largest largest state house news bureau in the United States. ProPublica, The Marshall Project, and InsideClimate News have each won the Pulitzer Prize. Chalkbeat and The Hechinger Report have revitalized education reporting, while The Trace has focused sustained attention to the scourge of gun violence.
As the nonprofit media field has matured, a set of common strengths have developed among the most successful:
• They recruit high-quality and diverse talent, including dynamic investigative, beat and data reporters, top-notch editors and seasoned business executives to run their operations.
• They’ve implemented state-of-the-art technology for delivery and engagement, developing highly-functional and well-designed websites free from the clutter of pop-up advertisements.
• They operate with efficient cost structures, focusing the vast majority of their resources on the salaries of journalists and editors.
• They draw from multiple not-for-profit revenue streams, including institutional and individual philanthropy, corporate sponsorship, events, and membership–and constantly seek to diversify and grow their sources of funding.
THE CITY launches with the experience, vision, and support to draw upon these lessons and establish a state-of-the-art, nonprofit digital news organization for New Yorkers.
Our Editorial Vision and Team
THE CITY aims to pulse with the metabolism of a lively daily publication, breaking news of importance to New Yorkers, from beat-driven enterprise stories to incisive investigative reports. We promise to tell those stories with the urgency and clarity of a great, gutsy New York tabloid, shaped by broadsheet ambition. People, data and policy – in that order of emphasis – will drive our reporting.
In short, THE CITY will serve the city through journalism – working with New Yorkers to make their lives better. The action this news outlet gets – and the increased civic activity it fosters – will be as much indicators of success as clicks.
THE CITY’s editor-in-chief and two deputy editors lead a team that includes beat reporters based in each of the five boroughs, six senior reporters (including one based in Albany), two data and graphics reporters, and directors of visuals and engagement.
This team, a mix of veteran and rising talent that aims to reflect the city we cover, will work to tell neighborhood stories that transcend neighborhoods, and drill down on critical issues like healthcare, transportation, education, immigration, justice, resilience, and housing.
We’re determined to help fill the growing news gap by using the power of digital journalism to produce consistent, high-quality and high-impact accountability reporting. THE CITY hopes to become a model, in New York and beyond, by showing that vibrant local journalism, the lifeblood of democracy, has a crucial role and a vibrant future.
Our Funding and Business Model
THE CITY has raised nearly $10 million from a group of founding donors and will receive additional financial support from foundations, endowments, corporate sponsors and members. THE CITY’s largest founding donors, the Leon Levy Foundation, Craig Newmark Philanthropies and the Charles H. Revson Foundation, each committed $2.5 million, driven by their belief in the critical importance of hard-hitting local news to New York City.
THE CITY has implemented an efficient, technologically advanced business and operational model to minimize overheads and ensure that the vast majority of its financial resources are deployed for the salaries of journalists.