Let me tell you about a new project we’re involved with. It’s called Crime Story. It’s the brainchild of a friend of mine named Kary Antholis. It’s about crime both in its story telling dimensions (in fiction, crime reporting, documentaries etc.) and also as a policy and social justice issue (mass incarceration, implicit bias in the criminal justice system, reform DAs, etc.) in American society.
TPM’s involvement in the project stems from my personal relationship with Kary which goes back about a decade. Part of the range of the site is captured in the two debut podcast episodes. First is an interview with Attorney General Bill Barr, an interview that was newsy enough that we picked up part of it. It’s paired with an interview with Georgetown Law Professor Paul Butler, one of the nation’s most respected and outspoken legal scholars on issues of race and criminal justice, who talks about just what Barr said.
Now, as readers and subscribers, I wanted to give you a bit more visibility into how this works. As I’ve noted in many posts this is a challenging time for all news organizations including TPM. Indeed, we are in the midst of a critical drive to finally get to a threshold sustainable level of memberships to keep TPM a viable enterprise into the future. (More on that soon.) So you may be asking, wait, you’re in a battle to build up your subscription numbers but you also have cash to invest in new media companies? That’s not how it works. The money flows in the opposite direction.
An established media company like TPM has a lot of sunk costs, experience with technical issues tied to digital publishing and just experience with how all this works. We can, as it were, sell that to new operations that are just starting out. The word we use is ‘incubate’. So we provide some tech, access to the publishing platform we built for ourselves, miscellaneous advice and also a widget with links to Crime Story article which will appear on our front page. And all that together generates additional revenue for TPM which we can use to close the gap created by the big crater in the ground that used to be the digital ad market – all while we work on building up our subscription numbers to the levels we need.
Your trust is critical for us. And transparency is absolutely critical to that trust. So my reason for delving into a bit of the details here is to assure you that your subscription fees go 100% to making TPM possible. Our relationship with Crime Story helps kick in some additional dollars to help keep the budget in balance.
With that out of the way though I want to tell you on a personal level that this relationship is much more than a business transaction. I’ve been talking with Kary about the Crime Story idea for I think two or three years now. And I am really excited about what it is going to be. Crime is fascinating. There’s a reason so much of our literature and entertainment turns on different dimensions of it. But it’s not just tense dialog and victims and bad guys. It pulls in every dimension of our society and culture. It is horrifying suffering. It’s a criminal justice system which often becomes a conveyor built of bodies – people arrested, boxed into plea deals, shipped off into private sector prisons which generate profits for Wall Street. And yes race and power is always at the center of the story.
There’s lots of great true crime entertainment and journalism. There are a host of new ventures turning a critical journalistic eye on the criminal justice system. Crime Story operates at the nexus of the two. Another debut piece which captures some of this: a column by Amanda Knox critiquing the “injustice” of Nancy Grace and her style of ‘true crime’ reporting. Kary has lined up a lot of high profile names who are going to be involved in the project. But I won’t steal his thunder on that front.
I’m excited to be involved in the project. And these are the reasons why it made sense for TPM to be involved in it. No TPM editorial staffers have any involvement with Crime Story. The sites are editorially independent of each other. The limited work we’re doing together is on the tech and publishing side.
I hope you’ll check it out and enjoy it.