The Daily Memphian, a nonprofit news source with a staff based solely in Memphis, will launch in the fall. The new publication’s founders and early hires announced details of The Daily Memphian at a July 16 press conference held at the Fedex Forum.
The publication, which will cover sports, business, neighborhoods and local politics, will be only available online and with a subscription of $7 a month.
High Ground News will partner with The Daily Memphian in producing articles about Memphis neighborhoods. All content will continue to be available for free at highgroundnews.com and select articles will be re-published on the Daily Memphian’s site, dailymemphian.com.
As the resignations of Commercial Appeal veterans rolled in over the past three months, speculation surfaced about a new media endeavor launching in Memphis. With still more hires to take place, The Daily Memphian currently has a staff of 27 with the editorial team including Commercial Appeal veterans Jennifer Biggs, Geoff Calkins, Chris Herrington and Otis Sanford.
Though The Daily Memphian is a separate entity, it shares ties to The Memphis Daily News. Eric Barnes, current publisher The Memphis Daily News, will take over as president and executive editor of the new online publication. All editorial staff of The Memphis Daily News, including Managing Editor James Overstreet, will join The Daily Memphian.
“I hope it raises the bar. I hope that all the other media outlets view it as competition in the best sense,” said Barnes. “With what Gannett has done in Memphis, they've really lowered the bar ... I hope, for instance, that Gannett rises to the challenge that's been put out there,” he said of the Commercial Appeal’s Virginia-based parent company. Beginning in 2016, Gannett Co. relocated the Memphis newspaper’s layout and copy editing to Nashville, where Gannett owns the daily newspaper The Tennessean.
The Memphis Daily News will return to being a printed source for public records and legal notices. The Memphis News, the weekly publication, will transition to covering communities in Middle and East Tennessee. Email editions for both publications will cease.
The Daily Memphian will be overseen by nonprofit holding company Memphis Fourth Estate, Inc. The nine-member Board of Directors raised $6.5 million to support the publication’s early years. The funders are anonymous and the Memphis Fourth Estate investment is held by The Community Foundation of Greater Memphis. The Daily Memphian aims to be self-sustaining and supported by subscriptions, events, sponsorships and advertising.
“The Daily Memphian newsroom will be independent of outside influence; staff will not know who has donated to the organization nor will funders have influence over the content. All gifts that have been made, and those that will be accepted in the future, have no conditions whatsoever,” said Andy Cates, board chair of The Fourth Estate, in a statement.
In an effort to improve its relationship to Memphis’ digital divide, free and reduced rate subscriptions will be available. Though that strategy is still being developed, Barnes said that community centers, libraries, schools and churches may be targeted as places where readers can access The Daily Memphian for free.
“It's a high priority but it’s going to be imperfect from day one, and we’re going to get better and better at it,” he said.
The Fourth Estate also supports The Institute of Public Service Reporting, an independent investigative reporting arm housed at the University of Memphis. The institute, which will launch in the fall, is led by Marc Perrusquia, former Commercial Appeal investigative reporter, and is advised by Stanford and Louis Graham, former Commercial Appeal editor. The Daily Memphian will publish investigative and enterprise pieces produced by the institute.
Barnes said that an internship program with Memphis area college and universities will encourage Memphis’ next generation of journalists, and particularly journalists of color.
Leadership of The Daily Memphian is seeking office space Downtown, though a location has not yet been announced.
“The Daily Memphian is all about being hyper-local – of Memphians, for Memphians, in Memphis. And, High Ground obviously reflects and exemplifies that,” Cates said.
Current editorial staff of The Daily Memphian
Eric Barnes, president/executive editor
James Overstreet, editor-in-chief
Terry Hollahan, managing editor
Kate Simone, associate editor
Jim Weber, photo editor
Jennifer Biggs, food and dining editor
Geoff Calkins, columnist
Chris Herrington, columnist
Michael Nelson, columnist
Otis Sanford, columnist/editor at large
Clay Bailey, reporter
Tom Bailey, reporter
Michelle Corbet, reporter
Bill Dries, reporter
Yolanda Jones, reporter
Jonah Jordan, reporter
Elle Perry, reporter
Wayne Risher, reporter
John Varlas, reporter
Don Wade, reporter
Omer Yusuf, reporter
Kyra Cross, designer/copy editor
Yvette Touchet, designer/copy editor
Holly Weber, designer/copy editor
Houston Cofield, photographer
Patrick Lantrip, photographer/videographer
Natalie Chandler, video/podcast production
Madeline Faber, editor, High Ground News, in partnership
Jacinthia Jones, Chalkbeat TN, in partnership
Memphis Fourth Estate Inc. board members
Andy Cates, president and chairman
Managing member, ValFund
Robert J. Davis, vice president
President and editor-in-chief, Everwell
Roshun Austin, treasurer
President/CEO, The Works Inc.
James Maclin, secretary
Principal/consultant, M&M Enterprises
Nancy Coffee, director
President & CEO, New Memphis
Mary Tabor Engel, director
Former reporter for The New York Times
Edward Felsenthal, director
Deanie Parker, director
Former President/CEO, Soulsville Inc.
Leslie Lynn Smith, director
President and CEO, Epicenter