Like all news outlets in New Orleans and across the country, The Lens is constantly re-evaluating its mission and goals, as well as the resources available to meet them. And like other newsrooms, we sometimes have to make difficult decisions.
Regrettably, this is one of those times.
Because of unexpected drops in revenue, The Lens is scaling back some of our work in order to focus on our core mission of providing unique, public-interest reporting on public policy regarding New Orleans and coastal Louisiana.
But make no mistake: We remain viable and committed to bringing you the kind of public-service journalism you’ve come to expect from our staff of award-winning journalists. We have new data-driven features we’ll roll out soon. And we’re planning for insightful coverage of key events in 2015, such as the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the 5th anniversary of the BP oil spill.
As a reader-supported nonprofit newsroom, similar to public television or public radio, we appreciate your continued contributions and support.
Here’s a look at our changes, followed by a look at a coming story that demonstrates our dedication to singular coverage, as well as a host of our recent accomplishments.
After today, we won’t produce our daily What We’re Reading newsletter of top stories from various news sources. And with the end of the school year, we’re putting our Charter School Reporting Corps on hiatus. We’re also sharply reducing our state political coverage.
We hope these popular features can return to The Lens, and we’ve instituted an aggressive fundraising effort to make that happen.
Many people, including those in the charter school movement, have told us how valuable our charter-schools coverage has been over the past few years. In many cases, a Lens reporter has been the only member of the public at these meetings. That oversight has shaped how these boards operate and spend public dollars, and we’re proud we could make that happen.
But it costs a lot — in time and money — to do this work. In addition to paying the freelancers to cover these meetings, we must coordinate coverage for more than 40 boards and edit the stories.
Again, readers have told us that our daily roundup of news, regardless of source, directs them to important stories. But it takes about 20 hours a week for one of our staffers to find those stories and write the daily post.
We will continue to send a weekly digest of Lens stories. If you subscribe to What We’re Reading, we will give you the opportunity to sign up for this email instead.
Likewise, our coverage of state politics and legislative news that affects New Orleans has been widely praised. We will continue to monitor issues in Baton Rouge that affect our city and the coast, but we can no longer dedicate a reporter to that beat.
Unfortunately, we are not able to keep all of our staff members involved in this work.
Despite these challenges, The Lens continues to boast a strong, experienced newsroom that provides investigative reporting and information that other outlets aren’t, and we do it in ways that best serve readers.
Our staff remains committed to the kind of outstanding reporting that has won us praise from our readers and awards from our peers. Here are highlights of our recent work:
- Rather than simply repeating Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s claims on his accomplishments regarding the reduction of blight, we have checked them. We’ll soon publish a story that showcases our ability to work differently: We visited and photographed about 300 properties that have been declared remediated by the city, and we’re putting the finishing touches on an interactive map to show you what we found.
- We continue to use social media to point users to the most interesting news about New Orleans, regardless of where it comes from.
- Our live blogs give people a front-row seat at important public meetings, providing the blow-by-blow rather than a digest.
- We are the most transparent news outlet in New Orleans, telling you exactly how we reported the story, highlighting documents and hosting live chats to enable you to ask us questions. When we get something wrong, we admit it and prominently correct the error on the story for all to see. Indeed, the post you’re reading now is another example of being honest and transparent with our audience.
- This week, we launched the first part of our contracts database, called The Vault. We uploaded nearly 5,500 agreements with the city of New Orleans and made it easier to find out where the city is spending its money. In the coming months, we will add contracts and other features that help people figure out who’s doing business with whom.
- We have trained our staff in reporting and writing stories for radio. You’ve probably heard our stories on WWNO-FM, whether they are 5-minute features or short explainers providing context behind the day’s news. Our work has also been used on NPR’s nationwide broadcast.
- Other news outlets in New Orleans and across the state continue to republish our stories.
- In the coming weeks we will roll out more data-oriented projects. Who’s buying and selling property? How much are public employees paid? Who’s donating to whom? We’ll help you find those answers.
As always, we thank you for your continued support, readership and encouragement. We believe the difficult changes we’re implementing, along with our aggressive fundraising, will ensure The Lens’ long-term viability so that we can continue to serve the community we all share.