This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 5, 2012 - Dear Beaconites -- Today's announcement that St. Louis Public Radio and the Beacon are exploring a formal alliance marks a milestone in the lives of our two organizations. But what matters more than the internal organizational significance is the promise this news holds for the people we serve -- you and our region.
We're exploring this alliance because working more closely together holds the prospect that we can serve you better. Public service is the driving force behind the letter of intent we've signed, and it will be the guiding force as our discussions unfold in coming weeks.
To be frank, announcing our intentions publicly at this point carries some risk. We don't yet know what form this alliance might take. Our efforts may fall short.
But failure to explore an opportunity as promising as this would be a greater risk. At a time when local news coverage across the country is shrinking, an alliance offers the prospect of a news operation with growing heft, reach and vigor.
The digital age has wreaked havoc on traditional media and high quality journalism. Yet individually and collectively, people still need solid reporting, thoughtful discussion and common spaces to come to grips with the problems and opportunities we face. Providing this kind of journalism is an especially vexing challenge at the regional level.
The digital whirlwind carries the seeds of a new golden age of journalism, but they will flourish only with careful cultivation. An alliance has the potential to help. Consider:
- The Beacon and St. Louis Public Radio bring deep knowledge, high standards and fierce commitment to coverage of news that matters to St. Louisans. Together, we might be able to work more broadly and effectively.
- Our organizations connect with St. Louisans in many ways -- on air, online and in person. Together, we can expand our reach and find new ways to engage.
- Both organizations are financially sound but recognize that all news operations face stiff long-term financial challenges. Together, we can create a business model built for the digital world and sustainable over time.
Our discussions will put St. Louis on the cutting edge of innovation nationally, and our beacon can light the way for other communities. But most important, we want to light the way to a bright future for our own community.
As we move forward, we'll continue to work closely with the Nine Network of Public Media, which has been the Beacon's partner since our launch and also has long worked with St. Louis Public Radio. We hope to work as well with other organizations, here and nationally.
Over the next several weeks, we'll explore how St. Louis Public Radio and the Beacon might combine the energy and expertise of each into an inspired whole. We aim to make some decisions by early next year. We hope you're as excited about these developments as we are. They're only first steps, but important ones on a promising path.