Online News Startup The Florida Independent Launches

Print's death rattle has birthed a new online start-up based here in Florida. The Florida Independent launched earlier this week with a focus on original, daily reporting on state and local issues.

But what's notable about the start-up is its place in a growing list of news organizations that are experimenting with a non-profit funding model. Earlier this week in San Francisco the Bay Citizen launched as well.

So far the site is heavy on aggregation, and follow-ups. Original dailies have covered Florida Power & Light's scuffles with local governments, and tensions in Jacksonville over a Muslim in city government.

Its staff includes New Times alum Tristram Korten, South Florida based FIU-grad Marco Restrepo, and Cooper Levey-Baker, former editor of Sarasota's alternative weekly Creative Loafing. The Independent is funded by American Independent News Network, and in part by the James L. Knight Foundation, which is based here in Miami.

David Bennahum, president of the Network, said in an interview earlier this year that relying on grants and private donations won't replace dailies, but it's a way to continue practicing journalism without being dependent on print revenue.

"I think no matter what, the future lies for us in a hybrid. In the foreseeable future, over 50 percent of our financing will come from grants, but some other percentage will be earned income," he told the Nieman Lab.

ProPublica, Voice of San Diego, and the Minnpost.com, are just some of the folks for whom that model is already working. ProPublica is arguably the most successful, having forged partnerships with legacy newspapers, and winning a Pulitzer for one of its original stories earlier this year.

The Network already has already has sites similar to the Independent in Washington D.C., Colorado, Minnesota, Michigan, and Iowa. It's not the first of its kind in Florida however. Health News is a beat-specific non-profit that's existed since 2007, and of course, for 25 years the St. Petersburg Times has operated as a kind of hybrid, for profit but supported by the corporate Poynter Institute.

[erik.maza@miaminewtimes.com | on twitter]

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