Fusion's successor is Splinter.
Fusion's successor is Splinter.
Screenshot of Splinter's homepage

After Collecting Millions in Taxpayer Money and Rebranding, Fusion Successor Comes to Florida

Fusion burst onto Miami's media landscape in August 2013 with splashy hires, an influx of cash from Disney and Univision, and a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Gov. Rick Scott, who pledged millions to get the venture off the ground.

In the four years since then, the cable channel/news website has quickly gone through several lives. First it shed Disney, then it purchased Gawker, and then it laid off many of its digital employees. This summer, the digital operation was rebranded as Splinter in a move to distinguish itself from the cable channel, which is still called Fusion and headquartered in Doral.

Splinter is now based in New York City. This week, however, a post on the site announced the company is looking for Florida writers and photographers to contribute work; an editor is heading to the Sunshine State for a trip that will "feel less like a scouting mission and more like a homecoming." But it doesn't mean the site's old presence here will return.

Instead, features editor Nona Willis Aronowitz's visit — a road trip through the state beginning next week in Miami — is part of a 2016-election-inspired project to build "virtual bureaus" across the nation. The idea is that rather than having journalists parachute into cities for stories, Splinter will turn to local writers and photographers who know their hometowns best.

"In this frightening, make-or-break historical moment, it’s more important than ever to amplify all kinds of talented and representative voices, not just the privileged ones who have connections to coastal publications," Aronowitz wrote in a post announcing the concept.

Her travels began last year. She road-tripped through Texas, the Rust Belt, and the Deep South to meet with journalists and activists. Along the way, she published contributors' stories to the series "Think Local."

Florida made sense as the next destination, Aronowitz says. "The state is just so rich with tension of all kinds — especially when it comes to the issues that Splinter cares about. And not only that, but like I said in my post, it's sort of where we first started."

Fusion is the brainchild of Isaac Lee, who once ran the Miami-based men's lifestyle magazine Loft and was hired as Univision's director of news in 2010. After the company committed to creating 245 new jobs in Florida, Governor Scott's Department of Economic Opportunity approved it for a $5 million incentive award. 

The first $2.5 million was given to Fusion in 2014. Last year, the company submitted documentation to prove it had met all the performance metrics required for the remaining $2.5 million, including hiring requirements. It wasn't immediately clear whether that money has been awarded.

First envisioned as a site for English-speaking Latino millennials, the site was broadened to all millennials. It seemed to struggle to find its footing but published important, attention-grabbing investigations, including one that revealed Miami Gardens Police had stopped and frisked half the city's population in five years, even labeling 5-year-olds "suspicious."

Layoffs came in November 2016 as part of a company-wide reshuffling after the purchase of Gawker. The Fusion site moved onto Gawker's publishing platform, Kinja. Then came the new name/rebrand.

"Splinter offers a sharp point of view, delivering news coverage for a new America: justice-minded, inclusive, and incisive," said an introduction from the site's then-editor-in-chief, Dodai Stewart, who has since left the post to pursue screenwriting. "We believe in telling the truth about outdated institutions and calling out injustices when we see them."

"Think Local" is a way to cover how this political era is affecting the most vulnerable, says Aronowitz, who will head to Miami next Monday and then make her way up the state. In the long term, she says, the goal is to assemble "a huge range of people that can cover America the way that we need it to be covered."

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