Votebeat launches as a permanent newsroom
Chalkbeat, the nonprofit news outlet that covers education at the local level, has raised $3.1 million to permanently launch a separate newsroom called Votebeat that will be dedicated to covering voting at the local level.
Why it matters: Votebeat is the only outlet in America that covers local voting exclusively. It will launch in four states to start on Tuesday, but plans to eventually expand to all 50 states with up to three reporters in each, its editor in chief Chad Lorenz told Axios.
Details: Beginning Tuesday, Votebeat will have nine full-time staffers, with plans to grow its team through the 2022 midterms and beyond.
- It launches with a new website, votebeat.org, a national newsletter highlighting its top story and a series of local newsletters in its four launch states: Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Texas.
- All reporters have gone through a two-week intensive training on local elections. The idea is to cover everything from misinformation to legal battles and mechanics around voting.
By the numbers: Votebeat raised $3.1 million ahead of its permanent launch and its annual budget will be $1.6 million, Lorenz said.
- New Votebeat-specific funders include the Loud Hound Foundation, the William Penn Foundation and the Joyce Foundation.
- Other funders that enabled Chalkbeat to expand include the Yellow Chair Foundation, Google News Initiative and Amanda Bennett, former executive editor of Bloomberg News and director of Voice of America.
"With reporters in 4 states, if we're able to show how we cover the story and produce journalistic impact, then we think more funders will want to come on board," Lorenz said.
- Lorenz said they chose launch states based on "where we are seeing the greatest threat to elections and where the story feels most urgent."
- He cited Pennsylvania's current gubernatorial election as an example of a midterm race that will need extra coverage of voting, given that the Republican primary candidate has advanced falsehoods about election fraud.
Flashback: Votebeat soft-launched in October 2020 as a three-month trial project with a little less than $1 million from backers.
- Then a popup venture, Votebeat worked with 10 partner newsrooms to pay 15 local reporters across eight states to cover voting ahead of the election.
- Chalkbeat decided to launch Votebeat officially as a permanent, standalone newsroom last year, and named Jessica Huseman, formerly of ProPublica’s ElectionLand, editorial director of the site.
The big picture: Votebeat marks a critical milestone for Chalkbeat, which launched in 2013 to cover public education at the local level.
- Chalkbeat now has nearly 70 staffers across eight local bureaus.
- Lorenz said Votebeat has "the full support and backing" of the Chalkbeat business infrastructure and that Chalkbeat is "equally committed" to raising funds for Votebeat.