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Art by Ryan Burger

There’s not much job security in the news business these days. The past few months have seen mass layoffs rocking institutions like the Los Angeles Times, BuzzFeed, Business Insider, and Forbes. By the end of this year, the country will have lost a third of the newspapers we had in 2005, based on the findings of a report by Northwestern University. This has grim implications for those working in the industry, naturally, but, more critically, just where are readers getting their local news?

Fort Worth might seem better-positioned than other, comparably sized cities to find in-depth analysis and investigations to go along with breaking news and cops and courts (and sports). Local newsstands now have more print publications than perhaps ever, including a daily paper owned by a New Jersey hedge fund which puts out hard-hitting local news (sometimes with a right-wing slant). And to go with the Star-Telegram and a scrappy 27-year-old alternative news source with exactly one writer on staff, the editor, and just a handful of freelancers (us), the upstart Fort Worth Report, a nonprofit media outlet created in 2021, also pounds out all manner of news consistently.

That seems pretty good, especially amid such a chaotic national media landscape, but Fort Worth is the 11th largest city in the nation, so then again, maybe not. And of all the publications we have, only the three above consider hard news and hard news analysis along with investigations worth pursuing steadily.

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Though Weekly publisher Lee Newquist is understandably a little biased, he also has 40-plus years of experience in the business throughout the country and takes pride in his paper’s personal approach.

“We’re on the ground, every single one of us,” he said. “I run the paper, I own the paper, and I’m at the bars and galleries every day.”

So, let’s take a quick look.

Owned by Chatham Asset Management, the stalwart Star-Telegram provides dependable local coverage along with a lot of syndicated content and, for us, way too much right-wing hot air, plus the Weekly and the Report. There’s also the stylish Fort Worth Magazine. Offering a robust business section to go with some light news coverage, Fort Worth has described its target audience as affluent, college-educated, married homeowners. Similarly, the popular Facebook group Tanglewood Moms puts out Madeworthy, a trendy glossy with a specific suburban perspective and the occasional breaking piece.

Don’t get it twisted. We’re not swiping at any of the above. They meet their goals while answering to the bottom line. Still, where are Fort Worthians getting their news, analysis, and investigations? Is one daily, a nonprofit, a few lifestyle magazines, and a severely understaffed weekly really enough?

Of all of us, the Report seems to be faring the best when it comes to producing news and analysis while growing.

“Everyone deserves local public journalism, but it’s not free to produce,” said founding Report publisher and CEO Chris Cobler.

With a website and a strong social media presence, the Report follows a model set by the Institute for Nonprofit News. A combination of private donations and grants made the Report possible. Cobler also plans to further develop a membership structure.

He echoed Newquist’s sentiments about the lack of locally focused journalism in Fort Worth.

“People inherently trust local journalism done by locals living here,” Cobler said. “There are good local journalists working for hedge funds. They just have so much stacked against them.”

The Report has tripled its staff since opening, but as Fort Worth continues to grow, so does the need for more local media. Will we ever get back to the glory days? Definitely not. But with some creativity and support, we can keep our town from becoming a news desert.

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