When Streetsblog launched in 2006, the site made an impact almost immediately. The daily scrutiny of NYC transportation agencies and elected officials created new opportunities for policy reform, leading to real change in the design and operation of our streets. It wasn’t long before advocates from out of town contacted Streetsblog about bringing this model of advocacy journalism to their cities, and where we could assemble the resources to pull it off, we did. In the course of a few years, Streetsblog became a truly national voice for overhauling our car-based transportation system.
With growth come risks. Our team knows how to make an impact with our reporting and commentary, but like many other media outlets, we’re still figuring out how to make the business of our journalism work. This process isn’t a straight line — there’s bound to be some trial and error.
In 2015, we’re making key changes based on what we’ve learned so far. While this will entail some difficult transitions, the new approaches Streetsblog is adopting position us to continue making an impact in more places over the long run.
Yesterday, we announced that Streetsblog Chicago is suspending publication after two excellent years of coverage from John Greenfield and Steven Vance. We hope this will be a temporary situation as John rustles up the financial support to revive the site under the umbrella of a new 501(c)3 separate from OpenPlans, the non-profit that publishes Streetsblog. (In Los Angeles, Streetsblog’s Damien Newton weathered the same transition a few years ago by starting up the Southern California Streets Initiative, which today runs a thriving local transportation news site at Streetsblog LA.)
Given current budget constraints, we’ve also had to cut two other valued members of our editorial staff, Tanya Snyder and Payton Chung.
We hired Tanya in 2010 as editor of our national site, called Streetsblog Capitol Hill at the time. Her leadership and energy built it into a compelling news source, with a broad and influential audience.
Tanya learned the ropes of federal transportation policy with alacrity, culminating with her coverage of the MAP-21 bill. Then she proceeded to steer our national coverage in new and varied directions under the Streetsblog USA banner. Tanya plugged her readers into the movement for transportation reform from coast to coast, delved into fresh topics like car-free parenting, and started up a new content platform in the Talking Headways Podcast. We’re going to miss her tremendously.
For the last year, Payton’s analytical skill and deep policy expertise added depth to the reporting across several Streetsblog outlets. While you may not have seen his byline frequently, as editor-at-large, Payton shaped content all over Streetsblog USA, Streetsblog Chicago, and Streetsblog SF every day. I count the three-part series on privately financed highways he produced with Angie Schmitt last November as the best piece of reporting that Streetsblog published in 2014.
Going forward, Angie will be directing Streetsblog USA coverage. She has a nose for stories that get at the heart of why transportation policy needs to change, and a keen eye for visuals that grab people’s attention. I’m excited to see where she takes the site from here.
For a small non-profit news organization, these are not minor changes. While Streetsblog’s core operations remain securely funded with a mix of support from individual contributions, foundations, and ads, we have resolved to adopt a few key shifts in strategy.
First and foremost: We have to adjust our expansion model. We continue to receive strong interest from advocates who want to bring Streetsblog’s brand of advocacy journalism to their cities, and we want to work with them to make that happen. Streetsblog LA points to the way forward: In the LA model, OpenPlans offers editorial expertise and a technical platform to a local partner organization who employs the reporters, instead of OpenPlans taking on everything in-house. We hope to replicate this model with John Greenfield’s reboot of Streetsblog Chicago, and in other cities where potential partners have reached out about starting up Streetsblogs.
The other change is to make better use of our capacity to generate revenue from ads. Streetsblog reaches a sufficiently large audience that ad sales are viable on a much larger scale than we’ve pursued to date. We can’t afford to leave that revenue on the table. It may be jarring at first, but more ads on Streetsblog will mean a healthier news organization in the long run, one that can better achieve its mission of connecting people to information about the movement for livable streets.
Thank you for reading and supporting Streetsblog as we embark on these changes.