Off the Record


February 11, 2021

Fort Worth, Texas – Fort Worth and Tarrant County will have a new source for local news with the creation of the Fort Worth Report, its founders announced today. Fort Worth Report will offer deep coverage of civic issues, local government, education and culture in an all-digital platform, beginning this spring. 

“Our citizens have always embraced strong journalism that makes a difference,” said Bill Meadows, president and co-chair. “The Fort Worth Report will provide unbiased local reporting that we need to be engaged in the issues that shape our great city.”

Research commissioned by Fort Worth Report’s organizers revealed a strong desire for objective and more in-depth local coverage than residents perceived they were receiving from existing media. The Burnett Foundation of Fort Worth provided initial funding for a 2021 launch.

“Nonprofit news represents one of the few bright spots in the journalism sector, with hundreds of public service news outlets springing up during the past five years,” said Mary Walter-Brown, CEO of News Revenue Hub, a national consulting firm that conducted the research and provided logistical support for Fort Worth Report’s implementation.

Chris Cobler  CEO’s notes to reader

Fort Worth Report also announced today the appointment of its first publisher and CEO, Chris Cobler, who directed award-winning community coverage most recently in Texas as editor and publisher of the Victoria Advocate. Cobler also was the first Donald W. Reynolds Nieman Fellow for community journalism at Harvard University and served as president of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas.

“I am honored and humbled to be a steward of this public trust,” said Cobler, a recipient of the Texas Press Association’s annual community leadership award. “I also am deeply grateful to the Burnett Foundation for its belief in this community project and to our board of directors for their devotion to making Fort Worth and Tarrant County an even better place.”

Cobler said formation of a diverse newsroom and other staff positions has begun, with the goal of finishing that task by mid- to late March. Initial content offerings will include newsletters, followed soon by in-depth news reports, provided free online.

Fort Worth Report has secured nonprofit IRS 501c3 status and rights to a destination URL. Currently posted on Fort Worth Report’s site are Cobler’s initial letter to Fort Worth news consumers, a history of Fort Worth Report’s development, a summary of frequently asked questions, its mission statement, its policies about donor transparency and its founding board of directors.

Besides Meadows, chairman emeritus of Hub International Inc. and longtime Fort Worth civic leader, other directors are attorney Marianne Auld, retired Fort Worth Star-Telegram publisher Wes Turner, entrepreneur Jonathan Morris, former journalist and now executive vice president of Visit Fort Worth Mitch Whitten and retired Associated Press executive and TCU Journalism Director John Lumpkin, whose career as a Texas journalist began at the Star-Telegram. Turner serves as co-chair and Lumpkin as secretary.

Additional board members will be announced soon, as well as formation of a reader advisory council. The advisory council will include a diverse group of neighborhood representatives, city and county thought leaders, and others who care about the issues that need addressing where they live, reflecting why Burnett Foundation decided to fund Fort Worth Report. 

“Anne Marion loved Fort Worth, her hometown,” Neils Agather, executive director of the Burnett Foundation, said about its late president. “She felt that in order to have a great city, you needed to have excellent reporting of the activities of the city council and the city agencies, as well as the activities of all our elected and appointed officials. 

“She had the hope and expectation that Fort Worth Report would accomplish that goal.”

Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price said, “Educated residents are engaged and often become leaders in the community. A news organization like the Fort Worth Report can make a difference because it empowers our residents to know more so they can do more. As they say, knowledge is power.”

Researchers heard from residents who participated in polling and focus groups that they wanted more solutions-oriented reporting and more news about their communities and less news of crime reports, entertainment-type superficial tidbits or incremental governmental bodies’ actions. They wanted assurance that reporters knew about the communities they cover.

“I hope news consumers in Fort Worth and Tarrant County will come to appreciate the efforts of the founders of Fort Worth Report and other thought leaders who embraced the concept, but that can only come after our readers decide we are an authoritative news source committed to objectivity, solutions and community service,” said Lumpkin, Fort Worth Report’s secretary.

He added, “I also hope the community continues to support other news media in one of the nation’s largest media markets. The Fort Worth Report intends to make its own unique contributions to public discourse without being direct competitors to any of our local media colleagues.”

News Revenue Hub’s Walter-Brown added of local news nonprofits: “The success and sustainability of these organizations depends on their ability to convince their communities to invest in local journalism through individual news consumers, community foundations and local businesses. 

“I think the Fort Worth Report is well-positioned to develop this type of support from local stakeholders.”

Fort Worth Report’s Co-chair Turner responded, “Fort Worth citizens can support our balanced news coverage by reading us every day and becoming a member who provides financial support. The more support the Fort Worth Report receives, the more news we can provide for our community. You can subscribe to our newsletters and follow us on social media, too.”

Note to editors: for more information about Fort Worth Report, please see our updated “Frequently Asked Questions” here.

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