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Nonprofit, accurate, and hyper-local news is coming to the Liberty City section of Miami.

The publisher of the Key Biscayne Independent announced Thursday the launching of a video-first publication serving Miami’s Liberty City area.

“Local journalism is in crisis with publications closing across the country at an accelerating rate,” said Tony Winton, who founded Miami Fourth Estate and is editor-in-chief of the Independent. “This is an effort to rebuild hyper-local news in an underserved community.”

The new publication, set to begin in mid-2024, is funded through a grant from Report For America, a national journalism organization which will provide a journalist to cover Liberty City and surrounding areas.

Kim Kleman, executive director for Report for America, said her organization is betting on nonprofit newsrooms to become beacons for the beleaguered industry.

“With our help recruiting talented early-career journalists, paying part of their salary, and working with newsrooms to become more sustainable, we expect exciting results,” she said in a statement. 

Liberty City is the “sister” city of Key Biscayne and home to about 50,000 residents. It would be Miami-Dade County’s seventh-largest city if it were an incorporated municipality.

One of the county’s poorest areas, Liberty City also contains a vibrant small business community that generates $12 billion in sales. A 2017 study by the University of Miami and Florida International University found that 87% of all Liberty City businesses employ less than 20 people. 

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“This full-time beat will report on the top stories and give attention to local voices,” Winton said. “We’re honored and delighted to have been selected by Report for America, and we can’t wait to start reporting.”

Miami Fourth Estate is one of three Florida news organizations that received a grant from Report for America this year, joining The Associated Press and Gainesville’s public station, WUFT.

The new Liberty City publication is also being supported by the Chief Press Foundation and leaders of the Belafonte Tacolcy Center, who will serve as community advisors. 

“I am very excited to be a part of this wonderful initiative,” said Charles Press, the former Key Biscayne police chief.  “It is extremely important that Liberty City be able to tell its own stories about the amazing residents who for generations have lived and flourished in this wonderful community.”

Liberty City community leaders and teens were in attendance for the news conference at the center. Shownda Pagan, the center’s CEO, said the announcement of the new publication is a moment to be celebrated. 

“You get to narrate how we are seen in this community,” she said. “We are no longer going to be defined by our zip codes. We are going to be defined by our success stories. We are going to be defined by the opportunities. We are going to be defined by who we really and truly are.”

Miami Fourth Estate, founded in 2020, is a nonprofit hyper-local news organization dedicated to creating professional and sustainable news coverage of each of Miami’s 34 municipalities – many of which have become news deserts.

The U.S. has lost one-third of its newspapers and two-thirds of its newspaper journalists since 2005 with an average of 2.5 newspapers closing each week in 2023, according to a recent Northwestern University study

Non-profit newsrooms and digital publications have emerged to fill the void. The Institute for Nonprofit News has grown to more than 420 members.

Shownda Pagan, CEO of the Belafonte Tacolcy Center, speaks at a news conference in Liberty City, Thursday Dec. 7, 2023. Miami Fourth Estate, the parent organization of the Key Biscayne Independent, announced a new hyperlocal publication for the Miami neighborhood starting in 2024 with a grant from Report For America. Miami Fourth Estate is one of about 50 newsrooms selected by the organization for reporter positions (KBI Photo/Tony Winton)

Report for America, known as RFA,  is a national service program that places talented emerging journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered topics and communities across the United States and its territories. Journalists interested in applying can learn more here

Maria Elena Fernandez, RFA’s regional manager, said so many journalists have lost their jobs in recent years and their organization is intent on filling the void.

“Those positions have never been filled, which means a lot of communities go without coverage,” she said. “I am very excited as a Miami native and I am excited to have a brand new newsroom in the program.”

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John Pacenti

JOHN PACENTI is a correspondent of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.

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JOHN PACENTI is a correspondent of the Key Biscayne Independent. John has worked for The Associated Press, the Palm Beach Post, Daily Business Review, and WPTV-TV.