Santa Cruz, CA – August 6, 2020—Lookout Local (www.lookoutlocal.com) makes communities better. Today, Lookout Local announces its first site, Lookout Santa Cruz, to be launched later this year.
“We’re bullish on our communities, believing life and democracy start at home, and must be supported by a new, higher standard of trustworthy, non-partisan local news and information,” said Ken Doctor, CEO and founder of Lookout.
“We believe that while the global Internet business is based on scale, local news will be rebuilt on the solid foundation of multiple, authentic relationships. Our members and civic and marketing partners will both enjoy a new relationship with Lookout, with the wider community and with each other. We are thrilled to be able to demonstrate this new model in such a turbulent time of social change and multiple community needs, and see it as an unprecedented opportunity. We believe that Santa Cruz County, and many places like Santa Cruz County, deserve the ability to vigorously support vital local news enterprises, and we will continue to talk with them as we build and launch Lookout Santa Cruz.”
Aiming to be intensely local, but not parochial, Lookout enjoys the support of numerous funders and partners at launch. Further, our new Friends of Lookout newsletter offers those supporters and all those interested in Lookout’s development a bird’s-eye view as we move toward launch.
Along with the support of the Knight Foundation, Google News Innovation Challenge, The Lenfest Institute for Journalism and the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Lookout has also been made possible through the local generosity of Meadow Fund, and individuals, including Carol and Doug Melamed, Rowland and Pat Rebele, and Linda Peterson.
The Los Angeles Times is a strategic partner of Lookout. That partnership takes three forms. First, Lookout will use the Times’ state-of-the-art Graphene content management system to power Lookout. Second, Lookout and the Times will experiment with subscription/membership bundles. Thirdly, Lookout will selectively use the Times statewide content, choosing stories relevant to local readers.
“We’ve made a major investment in the Los Angeles Times,” says Chris Argentieri, president and chief operating officer of the Times. ”That includes maintaining the fourth-largest daily newsroom in the country and completely overhauling our digital platforms, in both infrastructure and product. Our partnership with Lookout is based on a shared belief that strong local news products are vital to strong communities and that robust digital platforms are central to their success. This partnership is also meaningful to us as it marks another step forward in becoming the newspaper for California.”
Lookout will also include top quality state and national content from a dozen sources, including Calmatters, Kaiser Health News and Inside Climate News. Lookout’s editors will select that content on the basis of local relevance.
“Lookout is one of the most exciting new models for local journalism I’ve seen,” said David Rousseau, publisher of Kaiser Health News (KHN). “We’re looking forward to partnering with Lookout to bring KHN and California Healthline’s journalism to the Central Coast and to work together with its leadership team to explore new ways to produce more health reporting for local communities around the state and the nation.”
Lookout’s content partners share its belief and 2020s journalism travels hand-in-hand with reviving stronger, and better-informed, citizen involvement in public life.
“Local journalism is crucial for a healthy democracy, said Neil Chase, CEO of CalMatters, “and Lookout’s team has the deep knowledge and experience to provide it at a time when it’s needed more than ever. We’re looking forward to a close partnership, blending our statewide coverage with Lookout’s local focus to make essential information available to as many people in Santa Cruz County as possible.”
Today, we are also glad to announce a unique partnership with the First Amendment Coalition, a California nonprofit dedicated to advancing free speech, a free press, government transparency, and public participation in civic affairs. Together, Lookout Santa Cruz and the First Amendment Coalition have begun work on the Access Democracy initiative, investing in strong, local accountability reporting. We will pair journalists with FAC’s legal expertise to unearth government secrets and provide the public direct access to records and data that drive government decision-making.
“The Access Democracy project will invigorate a time-tested model that has driven some of the most important accountability and investigative journalism in California and beyond — journalists and lawyers working side by side to inform the public and to hold elected leaders to account,” said FAC Executive Director David Snyder. “The combination of Lookout’s local journalism team and FAC’s unparalleled legal expertise will shed light on the dark corners of government to help the people of Santa Cruz County understand and engage with their democracy.”
Key to Lookout’s vision is the ability to offer communities a new institution delivering everyday actionable news and information, able to be trusted for its non-partisan work. At launch, Lookout Santa Cruz’s overall initial team will number 15.
Lookout’s robust, topic-knowledgeable group of full-time correspondents will form the core of the reader experience, both through their connect-the-dots work and their two-way interaction with Lookout’s readers and communities. Lookout is where the digital world meets the real world, on our streets, in our civic groups, at our parks and clubs, and in the halls of government and aisles of business.
Both our business and product teams will match the excellence of the journalism in their own strategic, experience-driven approach to building the model.
Jed Williams heads the business operation as Lookout’s chief revenue officer. Widely known and respected in the news industry, Williams comes to Lookout from his four-year stint as chief strategy officer for the innovative Local Media Association.
“We firmly believe that a sustainable, thriving local media enterprise must be revenue-diverse,” said Williams. “It must be audience-centric and in large measure, audience-supported. A model that serves the full community, however, must also be able to serve all its members. This certainly includes building meaningful relationships with local and regional businesses as well as community and civic organizations. All of these valued constituents have a partner in Lookout.”
Lookout is now hiring its founding staff, with positions listed at www.lookoutlocal.com.
The Lookout model is brand new, but built on many innovations of the last decade in the news business.
“We’re humbled to build on all of the lessons learned the hard way,” says Doctor. “We ‘ve applied best practices from publishers as big and traditional as The New York Times and Financial Times and as young and emerging as The Daily Memphian and Charlotte Agenda, along with the diverse lot of Axios, the Athletic, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Quartz and Block Club Chicago, among many others.”
Through both his company Newsonomics and Nieman Lab column, Doctor has enjoyed a 15-year, big-picture view of the digital transformation successes and failures of news business change. Lookout Local’s approach aims to take the best of those learnings, and combine them in a new model for local news and information, one that can be sustained on and thrive on multiple revenue streams, including both access-controlled membership and local marketing partnerships.
When it launches, Lookout Santa Cruz will serve all of Santa Cruz County, with a population of 275,000. It’s typical of the kind of sub-major metro market ready for a model like Lookout, a market that has seen a loss of basic news reporting. It’s a model built to be transportable.
“Each community is unique, and requires smart, on-the-ground reporting,” says Doctor. “We know that the combination of that timeless reporting combined with the digital tools, and digital efficiency, of the day can be a winning formula. Together, they allow us to bring our audiences both essential news and a deeper sense of each communities’ uniqueness, and of the people who make it special.”
“We are supporting Lookout because we think it offers local “news deserts”—places like Santa Cruz County—a chance to have a new news company that covers all the important news of their communities fully, fairly, and fearlessly,” says Rowland Rebele, a philanthropist and retired publisher. “Lookout is a well-thought-out experiment aimed at bringing fact-based reporting and commentary to those communities in our country that are swiftly being deprived of it…the kind of reporting that is so vital to maintaining the strength and vigor of our democracy.”
About Lookout Local, Inc.
Lookout Local is a for-profit, public benefit company. Its mission, built into its incorporation, is crystal clear: To serve the news and information needs of its communities. Lookout Santa Cruz is the first of Lookout Local’s emerging network of local sites, with the intention of repopulating news deserts with a higher standard of journalism and a commitment to community betterment.
Learn More: Lookoutlocal.com
Lookout Local Inc.