A year ago, our staff of six met only by Zoom. The pandemic still gripped the country, and all of us were in various stages of moves in our lives.

Chief Development Officer Trish Terrell was dealing with the aftermath of the historic February freeze that had burst the pipes in the Ryan Place home she had just purchased. My wife, Paula, and I were racing to buy a home, competing against what seemed to be half the country moving to Fort Worth. 

We all took a leap of faith that a nonprofit and nonpartisan news organization was possible in Fort Worth. We knew that our board of directors, supported by a who’s who of community leaders, had arranged enough funding to last two years.

Beyond that, a steep financial cliff loomed. 

The original six members of our Fort Worth Report staff meet via Zoom. They are, clockwise from upper left, Chris Cobler, Thomas Martinez, Trish Terrell, Jessica Priest, Neetish Basnet and Jacob Sanchez.

A year later, that cliff is more distant, and our staff has tripled to 18. The response from all of you has been overwhelming and humbling in so many ways.

“Nonprofit reporting is the future,” reader Mimi Siff wrote recently when making a donation. “Thank you for your fair reporting of the facts.”

Along with your financial support that has allowed us to grow, we’ve been heartened by the comments so many of you have made about how much you value local public service journalism and how refreshing you find our nonpartisan and solutions-based approach. Managing Editor Thomas Martinez and I worked for decades at daily newspapers, and we can’t recall anyone ever describing them as refreshing.

Your response tells us the nonprofit formula for supporting local journalism is right for Fort Worth and Tarrant County. Free subscriptions to our weekday morning newsletters – the digital equivalent of a newspaper in your driveway – are growing at a clip of more than 1,000 a month. A significant portion of those subscribers become donors as they get to know and want to support us.

The late Anne Marion and the Burnett Foundation birthed us with a $1.25 million grant. Many other local, state and national foundations, in addition to major givers and smaller individual donors, have helped us make it to our first birthday and beyond. April is our birthday month, and we invite all of you to join the party.

We’ll have a community celebration April 27 at the Modern Museum of Art, featuring Tony Green as our moderator interviewing reporters Cristian ArguetaSoto and Kristen Barton, and Business Editor Bob Francis. Green also will talk with three of the people we’ve featured in our leadership series – Anette Landeros, Courtney Lewis and Matthew Avila – about how Fort Worth is changing, the challenges and opportunities that growth presents, and why independent local journalism is more vital now than ever.

We’ve spent the year talking with all of you about what you love about Fort Worth and what you want to see improved. These conversations have informed our journalism and will guide us for many years to come.

Your answers inspire us to do so much more. One of the hundreds of stories we wrote in our first year was Barton’s examination of the Fort Worth Way. Which way will Fort Worth go as it grows at such a dizzying pace? Will it keep the friendly feel that so many cherish? Or will it split apart along the partisan divide that has plagued the national discourse?

The Fort Worth Report’s mantra is to educate, engage and empower people through journalism that’s free, fair and local. We’ve all witnessed the damage done when people consume only partisan sound bites from national sources that blur the line between opinion, entertainment and news. You have spoken loudly through your support of the Fort Worth Report that you want better than that for your home.

In the next year, our growing staff will be even better equipped to hold our policymakers accountable to you. We will do even more of the in-depth, contextualized stories on topics that matter, including government accountability, education, business, health, the environment, and arts and culture. We plan many more in-person events to provide a place for all to discuss these issues and work together for a better Fort Worth.

But, first, we’re going to celebrate. And thank all of you.

This year has been the best ride of my 40 years in local journalism. After managing the decline of print newspapers for almost two decades, I feel like a kid again building a new model for supporting local journalism.

The Fort Worth Report is still in its infancy, but, oh baby, what a year it’s been.

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Chris Cobler is the CEO and publisher of the Fort Worth Report. He may be reached at chris.cobler@fortworthreport.org.

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Chris CoblerCEO/Publisher

Chris Cobler is the CEO and publisher of the Fort Worth Report. He may be reached at chris.cobler@fortworthreport.org. His journalism philosophy: Our success flows from the old-fashioned values of serving...

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