A digital news outlet is starting up in the city, spearheaded by a former mayor and a former editor for the daily newspaper. It’s called the Springfield Daily Citizen, and according to the articles of incorporation filed with the Missouri secretary of state’s office last month, the group organized as a nonprofit public benefit corporation.
The Springfield Daily Citizen is registered to former Mayor Tom Carlson, who said, “Assuming all goes well, we plan to start publication around the first of the year.”
The digital publication will be focused on Queen City community issues, he said in an interview with Springfield Business Journal.
Carlson also confirmed that he had hired a CEO.
“David Stoeffler has been hired as chief executive officer,” Carlson said. “He was executive editor of the News-Leader from 2010 to 2014 and developed a reputation as a community-oriented journalist, including leading the paper's Every Child project that brought about changes in early childhood education in our community.”
Carlson, a career attorney who is no longer active, was Springfield’s longest-serving mayor with seven terms. He has had a lifelong interest in journalism. In college, he worked for the president of the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., and operated his own stringer service to Missouri weeklies.
“My first job out of college was working for the Springfield News-Leader and then a weekly in Buffalo, Missouri,” he said. “I have always loved newspapers. They tie our community together.”
Carlson said when he started at the News-Leader, there were close to 100 people working in the newsroom, but he said today there are fewer than 20 on staff.
“Because of the loss of advertising revenue to companies like Google and Facebook, conventional for-profit newspapers cannot provide the in-depth coverage of local government and our community that they once did,” he said.
The state filing notes that the nonprofit publication has been organized “exclusively for charitable, literary, scientific and educational purposes.”
Carlson said nonprofit newspapers are starting to spring up throughout the country in response to the decline in extensive coverage of community and government issues.
“The successful startups have demonstrated that when they don’t have to make a profit, they are able to raise enough money through charitable donations and support of their readers to fill the local news gap that exists in so many cities today,” he said. “The success of this venture will depend on how well others in our community support our cause through charitable donations and our ability to recruit journalists dedicated to our mission.”
He said public radio operates on a similar model.
The articles of incorporation state: “The corporation has been organized for the purpose of gathering and disseminating information in a nonpartisan manner about important public-policy issues and matters of importance to residents of the city of Springfield, Missouri, and surrounding areas, using investigative, explanatory, data-driven and multimedia journalism.”
Amos Bridges, editor of the Springfield News-Leader, declined to comment on the new publication, which has a similar mission of covering the Springfield community. The News-Leader is owned by Gannett Co. Inc., which operates local media organizations in 46 U.S. states.
In today’s edition of the Springfield News-Leader, Steve Pokin, who writes the Pokin Around question-and-answer column, announced this was his last day at the newspaper, as he will begin working at a Springfield nonprofit tomorrow. “That’s what I can tell you,” he wrote.
Pokin added that he is embarking on his new job with his newsroom colleague Jackie Rehwald, who started with him at the News-Leader in 2012. Rehwald’s title with the News-Leader is social causes reporter.
“We’re not riding off into the sunset to write our memoirs. We’ll be around," Pokin wrote.
Pokin’s column did not say that he would be joining the staff of the Springfield Daily Citizen, but it does suggest he will continue as a local journalist.
“Being a reporter is like being a lifelong learner. I will continue that in my new job,” he wrote.
Both Pokin and Rehwald declined to comment.
Like Bridges, Christine Temple, executive editor of the Springfield Business Journal, also declined to comment on the new publication. SBJ focuses specifically on business news.
The nonprofit journalism model is becoming more common. The Salt Lake Tribune in Salt Lake City, Utah, was approved as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in October 2019. ProPublica and The Texas Tribune are other examples.
Typically, nonprofit media outlets offer sponsorship opportunities, including sponsored content, but not advertisements.
In an August 2021 article in the journal Communication Law & Policy, authors Rosalie C. Westenskow and Edward L. Carter state there are financial advantages to a nonprofit structure for news publications, and it may also provide a good environment for cultivating high-quality journalism. They argue that because journalism is a public good, it is a natural fit for the nonprofit model.
The Institute for Nonprofit News reports that nonprofit newsrooms “have launched at a pace of a dozen or more a year since 2008,” mostly with a focus on local and explanatory reporting.
Carlson said the URL for the outlet is not yet public and won’t be for a few weeks. The publication does have a Facebook page.
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