This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Dear Beaconites –
This month marks the Beacon's fifth birthday – a milestone that many startups never reach and some skeptics thought we'd never see.
In 2008, when we set up shop in a partnership with the Nine Network, we began with the basics -- folding tables, cell phones, lap tops and fierce determination to report news that matters to St. Louisans. Truth be told, we weren't sure where this experiment in new media would lead.
Most of the Beacon's founders developed our passion for public service journalism as longtime Post-Dispatch reporters and editors. But to carry this work forward, we'd have to rethink many things. With insightful reporting and drastic independence as our central goals, we've embraced new tools to tell stories, new channels to connect with sources and readers, and new ways to earn revenue.
In 2008, we worried that the digital revolution might already have left the Beacon behind. Now, as profound upheaval continues in media, we realize that the revolution is still young. We have a historic opportunity to provide the high quality reporting citizens need to sustain a sound democracy. But there's still no guarantee that the Beacon or any other news organization will secure a bright future for this important work.
Still, many signs are promising. For five years, we've delivered on our commitment to give St. Louisans the facts, context and thoughtful discussion they need to make progress. We've earned an outstanding reputation for coverage of such crucial topics as politics, health care, economic innovation, education, race and diversity, and the arts.
We've learned the importance of communicating in many ways – through video, audio and data as well as text; through social media, our Public Insight Network and in person, as well as through our website; through partnerships with other media and civic-minded organizations to deepen the conversation about public issues our work feeds.
We've explored the hidden forces that shape and often divide our region – making visible the influence of race, class, politics, history and even geology. Shining a light on these forces gives St. Louisans a better chance to address them.
But as we celebrate five years of Beacon accomplishments, we're acutely aware of all that remains to be done. The digital revolution is racing forward. So must we.
Last fall, we announced our intent to explore an alliance with St. Louis Public Radio – a partnership that could transform both organizations and the news landscape in our region. Now we've set a goal of completing a merger by July.
Together, our newsrooms can deliver more depth, breadth and innovative coverage than either can accomplish alone. Together, we can build a sustainable business model – a necessity that has proved elusive for for-profit and non-profit newsrooms alike. Together, our work will not only benefit St. Louisans but can make St. Louis a national leader.
Five years ago, the Beacon's founders felt buffeted by change. Now we know that our commitment to keep changing is perhaps our most important asset. We deeply appreciate those whose support and vision have made this adventure possible. We look forward to many more years of adventures working toward a better St. Louis powered by journalism.