May 4, 2023 - Business

The Assembly marks large partnership with Indy Week

An Indy Week newsrack in Durham. Photo: Zachery Eanes/Axios

The Assembly, a two-year-old digital news startup focused on North Carolina, is entering a partnership with Indy Week, the Triangle's only alternative weekly, that could eventually lead to its acquisition.

Why it matters: Indy Week has been a stalwart of Triangle's media ecosystem since it was founded four decades ago by Steve Schewel, providing robust coverage of the local arts scene and an unapologetically progressive bent to its coverage of local politics. (Schewel, who later became mayor of Durham, sold the Indy in 2012 to Richard Meeker.)

  • But its future has been in peril due to a grim financial situation, as print advertising shrunk, and Meeker has tried to find a buyer for several years.
  • "We're really glad this partnership has come to fruition because it really turned out to be probably the only way Indy is going to be able to go forward," Jane Porter, Indy Week's top editor, told Axios.

What's happening: The Assembly said the partnership could ultimately lead to it acquiring Indy Week, Assembly co-founder Kyle Villemain said in an interview.

  • The Assembly will help manage Indy's business operations — Indy will editorially remain independent — as it tries to get the business on sound financial footing.
  • The Assembly and its partners, including Hanna Raskin's "The Food Section" newsletter and Scalawag Magazine, will share some content with Indy.

What they're saying: "The idea here is that the Assembly is coming in to provide some resources both on the editorial side and a little bit on the financial side, to give Indy a deep breath and a fresh start as it navigates this path forward," Villemain said.

  • "As that works out, we can talk about an ownership shift as well," he added. "But for now, Richard remains the owner. The goal was to have local ownership."
  • Villemain said there is no deadline for it to acquire Indy.

What's next: The biggest change will be moving Indy's print publishing schedule to once every two weeks rather than weekly.

  • The hope is that it will give the staff of around a dozen people more time to do reporting on the subjects the paper cares most about: local politics, arts and food and accountability reporting.
  • Indy will no longer cover statewide politics and its morning newsletter will be shorter.
  • Villemain said he's currently having budget discussions with the Indy and hopes to preserve every existing position at the paper and potentially grow the staff by the end of the year.
  • "We are working to keep everyone that we can on board and not even just that but grow by the end of the year," Villemain said. "Exactly how we got there is a discussion for us over the next couple of weeks.
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