Houston deserves a news ecosystem as big and bold as it is

By Ann Stern, Rich Kinder and Laura Arnold

 

Journalism is, at its core, a public service — and Houston could use more of it.

Our representative republic relies on an informed citizenry that has access to trustworthy, vital and actionable information that sheds light on problems and solutions, and provides a platform from which to spur reform. As Thomas Jefferson once said, it is preferable to have newspapers without government than government without newspapers.

But that twilight scenario Jefferson lamented is increasingly coming true. Misaligned market forces and outdated business models have caused a troubling erosion of journalistic resources nationwide. More than 2,000 newspapers have disappeared, leaving many cities with only a single newspaper of record, or worse, no newspaper at all. Information gaps are filled by partisan outlets that frame every issue to fit electoral ends, or by social media sites that care more about profit than the public good.

Even Houston, a city rich in local media in every language and on every platform, lacks news coverage at the size and depth appropriate for our chaotic, energetic, sprawling coastal metropolis. That is why we have decided to collectively invest $20 million for a new nonprofit newsroom in Houston. This newsroom will augment and strengthen the existing journalism ecosystem and add more resources to serve our community.

We made the decision to fund this new venture in response to an assessment conducted by the American Journalism Project. Their survey revealed an appetite for more resources to do focused beat reporting, news that is accessible in different languages and on various platforms, and journalism that directly connects journalists with the communities they serve. Houstonians had desire for coverage that reflected not only the meat and potatoes of news, but the rich cultural diversity of our region, from the proud history of Fourth Ward to increasingly international suburbs growing along the Katy Prairie and everything in-between.

More than anything, this is an investment in Houston’s future — but we can’t do it alone.

Our region’s success lies in the power of its populace to demand and drive change. Research has shown that in the absence of a reporter’s watchful eye, government corruption and mismanagement flourish, voter turnout plummets, and public finances go unchecked. The historic model of competing journalistic outlets struggles to give people everything they need to be fully informed about the civic institutions of their own hometown. Our proposed nonprofit newsroom will instead work hand-in-hand with existing outlets — print, digital, social media, radio and television — to put more reporters at work investigating local government, Houston-specific issues, and community needs. This is a Houston-centered agenda that will fill gaps and bolster coverage of critical stories in a way that will not only add to the existing news ecosystem, but also give journalists at other establishments more flexibility to dig deeper on their own work.

To that end, the organization will provide all journalistic content for free to all Houstonians and all media outlets. The journalism will be fiercely independent and nonpartisan without editorial control or influence by its funding sources.

The announcement today is only the beginning – there are a great number of details to be ironed out. A search committee is actively looking for a new CEO and managing editor who will be responsible for developing the mission, vision, name and hiring the staff of people to execute the hard work. We hope to begin publishing by the end of this year, but that will depend on finding the right candidates who are committed to forging a new vision for Houston journalism that is as big and bold as Houston itself. And it depends on Houstonians stepping up to demand a city as great as its people.

 

Ann Stern is President and CEO of the Houston Endowment, a private foundation that partners with others to achieve a vibrant and inclusive region where all residents can thrive. Rich Kinder is chairman of the Kinder Foundation, a philanthropy that seeks to transform Houston in significant ways and help people realize a healthy and rewarding quality of life. Laura Arnold is the co-founder and co-chair of Arnold Ventures, a philanthropy dedicated to maximizing opportunity and minimizing injustice.

 Get to Know the Kinder Foundation Team: Kathryn Dollins

The Kinder Foundation is committed to making impactful gifts which improve Houston in significant ways. With an ambitious vision set forth by founders Rich and Nancy Kinder, the Kinder Foundation is supported by an exceptional staff of experienced professionals who help make our mission a reality.

Today, we introduce you to Kathryn Dollins, Attorney & Office Manager. Kathryn oversees and acts as in-house counsel for both the foundation and family office, and serves as assistant secretary for the Kinder Foundation Board.

Learn more about Kathryn below, and find past staffer Q&As here. Read about the full Kinder Foundation team here. Continue reading ” Get to Know the Kinder Foundation Team: Kathryn Dollins”

Get to Know the Kinder Foundation Team: Guy Hagstette

The Kinder Foundation is committed to making impactful gifts which improve Houston in significant ways.  With an ambitious vision set forth by founders Rich and Nancy Kinder, the Kinder Foundation is supported by an exceptional staff of experienced professionals who help make our mission a reality.

Today, we introduce you to Guy Hagstette, Senior Vice President of Parks and Civic Projects. Guy is a registered architect and urban planner who directs the foundation’s park and civic projects. As a consultant on Buffalo Bayou Park for the Buffalo Bayou Partnership and an advisor to the Houston Parks Board on Bayou Greenways, Hagstette has helped the city blossom.

Learn more about Guy below, and find past staffer Q&As here. Read about the full Kinder Foundation team here. Continue reading “Get to Know the Kinder Foundation Team: Guy Hagstette”

Kinder Excellence in Teaching Award Alumni Spotlight: Johanna Sanchez

Since 2001, the Kinder Foundation has honored a handful of Houston’s most distinguished teachers with the Kinder Excellence in Teaching Award in recognition of their commitment and innovation. The honors are given at an awards dinner each Fall, where current and past winners share their stories and are shown gratitude by their peers, administrators, and Rich and Nancy Kinder. The Kinder Excellence in Teaching Awards has gifted over $3.7 million to more than 250 teachers since the program was established.

We are proud to spotlight past recipients of this award and sharing what they have been up to since their recognition.

Continue reading “Kinder Excellence in Teaching Award Alumni Spotlight: Johanna Sanchez”

Get to Know the Kinder Foundation Team: Gary Dudley

Get to Know the Kinder Foundation Team: Gary Dudley

The Kinder Foundation is supported by an exceptional staff of smart and experienced professionals whose work helps carry out the mission of the Foundation. Over the past several months, we have introduced you to various staffers as part of our ongoing blog series and today we are pleased to spotlight Gary Dudley. As the Kinder Foundation’s Chief of Staff, Gary oversees the operations of the Kinder Foundation and Family Office.

Read on to learn more about Gary below. You can find past staffer Q&As here and read about the full Kinder Foundation team here.

Continue reading “Get to Know the Kinder Foundation Team: Gary Dudley”

Get to Know the Kinder Foundation Team: CJ Johnson

Today we continue our blog series introducing you to the members of the Kinder Foundation team. These colleagues are essential to the success of the Foundation’s mission of making impactful gifts that transform Houston in significant ways.

Today we introduce you to CJ Johnson, Kinder Foundation’s receptionist. CJ provides exceptional administrative support for the Kinder Foundation and family office.

Learn more about CJ below, and find past staffer Q&As here. Read about the full Kinder Foundation team here. Continue reading “Get to Know the Kinder Foundation Team: CJ Johnson”

Get to Know the Kinder Foundation Team: Aarti Garehgrat

Over the past several months, we have highlighted the talents, interests, and backgrounds of Kinder Foundation team members. They are the subject matter experts ensuring the Kinder Foundation mission is carried out with intention, diligence, and integrity.

Today we introduce you to Aarti Garehgrat, Kinder Foundation’s director of finance. A CPA, Aarti is responsible for the financial planning, analysis, accounting, and reporting for the Kinder Foundation.

Learn more about Aarti below, and find past staffer Q&As here. Read about the full Kinder Foundation team here. Continue reading “Get to Know the Kinder Foundation Team: Aarti Garehgrat”

Introducing Discovery Green’s new playground

After a long wait, Discovery Green is celebrating the opening of a more than $2.3 million dollar renovation of the park’s popular John P. McGovern Playground. While the upgrade was complete in August 2020, COVID restrictions required the playground to remain closed to visitors – until now.

While construction was underway, members of the Kinder team spoke with park president Barry Mandel about this exciting project. Mandel shared his insights on the renovation, COVID-19’s impact on the project and park use, and the meaningful ways Discovery Green creates a space which embraces Houston’s diversity and sense of community. Now that Houstonians can officially visit and enjoy the playground for themselves, it seems a great time to look back on how it all came to be. Continue reading “Introducing Discovery Green’s new playground”

Kinder Excellence in Teaching Award Alumni Spotlight: Caitlin Wales

Since 2001, the Kinder Foundation has honored a handful of Houston’s most distinguished teachers with the Kinder Excellence in Teaching Award in recognition of their commitment and innovation. The honors are given at an awards dinner each Fall, where current and past winners share their stories and are shown gratitude by their peers, administrators, and Rich and Nancy Kinder. The Kinder Excellence in Teaching Awards has gifted over $3.7 million to more than 250 teachers since the program was established.

We are proud to begin spotlighting past recipients of this award and sharing what they have been up to since their recognition.

Continue reading “Kinder Excellence in Teaching Award Alumni Spotlight: Caitlin Wales”