Last fall, a member of our community asked me a question I had never been asked in my entire career as a journalist.
And let me tell you it’s been an embarrassingly long career — from the days of obsessively carrying pocket change so I could file stories using a pay phone to the technological dawn of the mid-1990s when my newsroom shared one magical computer with access to the World Wide Web.
In that time, readers and sources have asked me just about everything except this fundamental question posed to me back in September when I became the first editor in chief of the Houston Landing:
What is your mission?
I guess no one ever thought to ask me that during all those years toiling away at legacy newspapers because they didn’t need to. They assumed they already knew. What else could my newspaper’s mission be other than to cover the news, sell some ads and make some money?
But now that I was helping to build a new nonprofit news organization, the question seemed natural — and the answer was easy: Our mission is to strengthen democracy and improve the lives of all Houstonians one story at a time.
I hope as you have been following along on the Houston Landing’s journey through our letters from the editor you are learning what that mission really means. Managing editor John Tedesco wrote about it here when he talked about the importance of investigative journalism. I touched upon it when focusing on what makes the Houston Landing different.
At the core of this mission is democracy, this idea of power of the people. How can we empower our community to feel more part of the process, more engaged with the work we do, so they feel that the story doesn’t just belong to the journalists at the Landing. It belongs to you, too.
One important way we hope to fulfill this mission is by listening to you. That will happen from all corners of our organization, from our columnist Maggie Gordon’s “Walk and Talk” series to our membership manager Jacqué Palmer’s “Office Hours.”
It will also happen from the editor’s corner. Today I’m announcing the formation of the inaugural Houston Landing Community Advisory Panel. And I hope you will consider joining.
Panel will serve as a voice
This panel of 10 members will meet with me regularly with multiple and meaningful roles. They will (hopefully!) tell us when we are meeting our duty to serve our community with essential journalism so we can work hard to repeat successes. But they will also share with us when we could do better.
We want the panel to advise us on important stories we’re missing and to challenge us when we are not being fair.
The panel of volunteers will help serve as a voice for a range of people the Landing hopes to serve — from underserved neighborhoods inside the Loop to overlooked communities in our suburbs.
We want to know when we are being out of touch or are fueling misperceptions of our communities. We want the panel to vigilantly remind us that there’s nothing more important than growing trust and credibility with the public.
Who are we looking for in our panelists?
The group should look like Houston — diverse in character, experience and story.
They should believe in the power of the press and the role it plays in holding the powerful accountable.
They should want to help forge a new path in journalism by focusing on enhancing civic engagement.
They should understand that this place we all call home is dynamic and determined but also suffering from persistent problems needing urgent solutions.
If this is you, if you’re willing to contribute your valuable time, if our vision inspires you, if you believe in the future of Houston, please consider joining us on our mission.