Dean Baquet touts local investigative journalism fellowship at the Independent News Sustainability Summit

November 2, 2022

By: Dan Hu

The Independent News Sustainability Summit, organized by the RevLab at The Texas Tribune, LION Publishers and News Revenue Hub, kicked off Thursday, Oct. 27, with an opening keynote by Dean Baquet, former executive editor of The New York Times. The summit marked the first time independent news leaders from across the country gathered to discuss the future of revenue and sustainability, drawing more than 500 attendees to Austin, Texas.

For leaders of independent newsrooms where budgets are razor thin, having an investigative reporter who can dedicate months to a single story is a luxury. Often, this means potential leads go unexplored — and important stories unreported. Baquet made this the focus of his keynote: He recently launched the Local Investigations Fellowship to direct the resources of The New York Times toward this issue.

In its first year, the program will cover the salaries and benefits of about a dozen fellows as they dive into investigative stories in their local communities, while also having access to top editors at the Times. After stepping down this summer as the first Black executive editor of The New York Times, Baquet expressed his wish to return to his roots in investigative reporting, for which he shared a Pulitzer Prize in 1988. “This is my chance to train a new generation of investigators, and take them to school,” he said.

In response to pointed questions from Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith, who moderated the session, Baquet also assured the audience that the goal of the fellowship was not to build up readership for the Times in local areas. “We’re not looking for a New York Times story,” Baquet said, pointing out that investigative stories produced through the fellowship could be co-published in The New York Times and the local outlet.

“The goal is to do work that otherwise would not be done,” Baquet said.

The keynote was the first of more than 40 sessions at the Independent News Sustainability Summit, a three-day conference on how to preserve and sustain independent journalism. Attendees walked away with tools, resources and best-of-the-industry advice on how to sustain the important work their newsrooms produce. The event was sponsored by the Knight Foundation, The Lenfest Institute and the Google News Initiative.

In conversation with Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith, left, former New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet said, “I owe something to journalism,” reflecting on his eight years at the helm of The New York Times.

Photo credit: Azul Sordo/The Texas Tribune

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