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Local nonprofit media outlet plans coverage of Miami's Liberty City

"This is a first for Liberty City," Belafonte Tacolcy Center CEO Shownda Pagan (ABOVE) told reporters and local residents at Thursday's press conference announcing the launch of a new digital publication covering Miami's Liberty City. "We will no longer be defined by our zip code," she said. "We are going to be defined by who we really are — not a bad community but a successful powerful community.
Courtesy
/
Miami Fourth Estate
In this file photo taken Tuesday, May 18, 2021, Liberty Square is a housing development in Miami's Liberty City. A new digital media nonprofit is planning to cover Liberty City life.

Miami Fourth Estate, a nonprofit news organization, is launching a new publication next year to serve Miami's Liberty City, a part of South Florida often overlooked by local media outlets. 

“This is an effort to rebuild hyper-local news in an underserved community," said Tony Winton, who founded Miami Fourth Estate in 2020, which publishes the Key Biscayne Independent, a digital publication, and the "Anti-Social" podcast. The Independent is a news partner with WLRN.

At a press conference Thursday at the Belafonte Tacolcy Center in Miami's Liberty City, Winton unveiled its plans by announcing it had secured funding to hire a journalist through Report for America, a national non-profit that partially funds the cost of reporters to cover underreported issues or communities.

“We’re excited to expand news coverage to Liberty City and to build on Key Biscayne’s existing sister city relationship with this historic Miami neighborhood,” said Winton. “This full-time beat will report on the top stories and give attention to local voices.

In a statement, RFA Executive Director Kim Kleman said it is betting on Miami Fourth Estate to "become beacons of the whole industry."

“They know the coverage they need to better serve their communities," she said. "With our help recruiting talented early-career journalists, paying part of their salary, and working with newsrooms to become more sustainable, we expect exciting results.”

In addition to funding from RFA, the Liberty City journalism project is being supported by the Chief Press Foundation, part of the the Key Biscayne Community Foundation, and leaders of the Belafonte Tacolcy Center, who will serve as community advisors.

The Key Biscayne Community Foundation's Andrew Britton, who is director of donor relations and special projects, said it's "extremely important that Liberty City be able to tell its own stories about the amazing residents who for generations have lived and flourished in this wonderful community."

"Mainstream media has created a narrative of violence and fear, yet I know first hand of the many stories of success and overcoming the obstacles placed in their way," Britton said.

The RFA journalist will report and shoot video to publish and air on a digital website and on various social media platforms, including Instagram and TikTok, to reach a wide audience, said Winton.

Miami Fourth Estate, a nonprofit news organization, is launching a new publication next year to serve Miami's Liberty City, a part of South Florida often overlooked by local media outlets. (ABOVE) “This is an effort to rebuild hyper-local news in an underserved community," said Tony Winton, who founded Miami Fourth Estate in 2020, at a press conference Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023.
Courtesy
/
Miami Fourth Estate
Miami Fourth Estate, a nonprofit news organization, is launching a new publication next year to serve Miami's Liberty City, a part of South Florida often overlooked by local media outlets. (ABOVE) “This is an effort to rebuild hyper-local news in an underserved community," said Tony Winton, who founded Miami Fourth Estate in 2020, at a press conference Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023.

The journalist will be hired early next year and begin work by the summer. Journalists interested in the position can apply here, by Jan. 31, 2024.

Student journalists will also be recruited to tell stories of Liberty City under veteran editors Winton and John Pacenti, the executive editor of the Key Biscayne Independent.

The Independent is Miami Fourth Estate's first local digital publication. Other local digital editions are planned throughout the county.

READ MORE: Nonprofit newsrooms WLRN, Miami Fourth Estate to share news content

"This is a first for Liberty City," Belafonte Tacolcy Center CEO Shownda Pagan told reporters and local residents at Thursday's press conference.

"We will no longer be defined by our zip code," she said. "We are going to be defined by who we really are — not a bad community but a successful powerful community.

Liberty City is home to about 50,000 residents and would be Miami-Dade County's seventh-largest city if it were a municipality and not just part of Miami. It's also one of the county's poorest areas, yet it has a vibrant economy driven by mostly small businesses that are locally owned and operated, according to a 2017 University of Miami/Florida International University economic study

The study's authors found that 87% of all Liberty City businesses employ less than 20 people, and that all its businesses generated a collective $12 billion in annual sales.

Miami Fourth Estate's Winton said the need for more coverage of "forgotten" communities like Liberty City comes at a time when "local journalism is in crisis with publications closing across the country at an accelerating rate."

Indeed, the U.S. has lost one-third of its newspapers and two-thirds of its newspaper journalists since 2005. An average of 2.5 newspapers closed each week in 2023 compared to two a week the previous year, a reflection of an ever-worsening advertising climate, according to a recent Northwestern University study. Most are weekly publications, in areas with few or no other sources for news.

At its current pace, the U.S. will hit 3,000 newspapers closed in two decades sometime next year, with just under 6,000 remaining, the report said. At the same time, 43,000 newspaper journalists lost jobs, most of them at daily publications, with the advertising market collapsing.

Sergio Bustos is WLRN's Vice President for News. He's been an editor at the Miami Herald and POLITICO Florida. Most recently, Bustos was Enterprise/Politics Editor for the USA Today Network-Florida’s 18 newsrooms. Reach him at sbustos@wlrnnews.org
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