Reviving Community News through a Nonprofit Model with the Austin Monitor’s Joel Gross

Podcast - Reviving communities through non profits

Joel Gross, CEO of the Austin Monitor, offers a front-and-center look into Austin’s increasing need for community news. With a nonprofit model, Joel is helping sustain the information landscape within a city rapidly growing into a metro region. Joel’s first mission is to make community news more accessible so that locals can stay informed and engaged, having a voice in the decisions made where they live.  

Timecoded Guide: 

[5:02] Mission of the Austin Monitor 

[7:14] Sustaining a nonprofit news model 

[10:26] Access to local news 

[14:05] Future of the media landscape 

[16:34] Big issues in Austin 

[22:33] Austin monitor’s role in the community 


What do you see as the mission of the Austin monitor? 

The Austin Monitor has a broad mission but with two main facets: informing and engaging the community. Joel says that, with this, comes a prosperous community when it is made stronger by people feeling more connected. Importantly, people gain a sense of agency with community news when they have more of a voice and can go from being informed to being engaged.  

“That dynamic of becoming aware, understanding, following, and taking action—That’s what we believe is a throughline to a strong, civically healthy community.” 

 The new nonprofit news model  

As newspapers have fallen to the wayside and community news has given way to broader outlets, community news has needed a new business model to thrive again. Fortunately, the nonprofit news model also makes information accessible, removing paywalls in the process. Joel says that this was the first vision of the Austin Monitor. He says that while the highly competitive media landscape has largely dissolved local news, the nonprofit media model is proving to be a sustainable solution.  

“We want to do it for all so what they’re doing at the state level, you’re doing that at the local level. And I think we’re starting to see that happen in cities across the country” 

What do you see as the current big issues in Austin? 

Austin is experiencing an acceleration of population and economic growth. Yet the city itself remains designed for a certain population size. The core issues that are normally present in a city, Joel says, reach a boiling point when the city cannot keep up with the growth. Through elections, big changes, and new developments, being informed and engaged in the community is more important than ever: which leads to a healthier community. 

“What we want is people to feel like they are involved in that change, that they can add their voice, that change that they are being able to shape the community that they want to be in, that they want their kids and grandkids to be in.” 

How does having access to local news make for a healthy community? 

Joel says that there should not be an inequitable barrier to access the information needed to make decisions within a local community. The current information about a local community informs what the trajectory will look like for months and years ahead. Importantly, the Austin Monitor has informed many local leaders and those involved with the local government. The next step, Joel says, is to reach a more general audience, the rest of those living and working in Austin.  

“Right now we’re trying to get what we call that next level of audience—the people that are curious about what’s going on in the city but may not know where to begin.” 



Keep up with Joel on LinkedIn. 

Visit the Austin Monitor. 

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