It's almost 2020. What's new with The Devil Strip co-op?

In the coming weeks, The Devil Strip will be community-owned. As soon as our bylaws are approved at our first annual meeting, our co-owners will be in charge.  

As the soon-to-be-former sole owner of The Devil Strip, I’m grateful you’re willing to share this awesome responsibility with me and our talented, dedicated crew. We’re serious about our mission to help more Akronites engage their neighbors, our city and a greater sense of shared purpose. 

Each co-owner will soon be emailed a draft of our bylaws to review. We can give it shape over the years, amending as needed, but it’s important to start with a strong foundation, so we want your comments, which we will share with our lawyers at Brennan, Manna & Diamond for the final draft. 

That’s the first vote our co-owners will take, and it’ll make history.

The second vote will be whether to confirm our inaugural board of directors. This group of five to seven Akronites will support our work and our mission. Once we’ve interviewed the candidates, we’ll send you their information ahead of the annual meeting. If you are a co-owner and want to be considered, please email me. 

More details to come, but for now, I’d like to share some more good news. 

We have received a $50,000 grant from GAR Foundation, through our fiscal sponsor, the Community Hall Foundation (aka – Akron Civic Theatre), to support the co-op launch, three new reporting projects, increasing our reach, hiring business services and hosting public training sessions to equip residents with foundational journalism skills. 

This grant, coupled with more than $40,000 you’ve helped us raise through NewsMatch, means we can hire two full-time journalists through Report For America. Best yet, we’ll bring senior reporter Noor Hindi on full-time too. She’s been reporting part-time as she finishes her Master’s Degree and teaches, but just read her investigation into Akron’s high infant mortality rates and then imagine what she can do with more time. 

That’s why we’re so excited about our journalism in 2020. But we need your help to reach our potential. Your voice, your insight, your perspective and expertise are missing from most local media. Let’s fix that. We want you to get involved, and the best way for you to be heard is to become a co-owner. 

As a co-owner, you can help us find the best stories, the best sources and the best candidates for reporting those stories, like the two Report for America positions that start this coming summer. We’re also counting on you to be a proud co-owner, sharing your favorite articles and encouraging your friends to become co-owners, joining this movement to change the way Akron’s story is told.  

That’s the whole thing. We can do a whole lot more together than as individuals, and it’ll be a whole lot more fun too. 

Now, more context for the good news we’ve already shared with you.

As I mentioned earlier, The Devil Strip will be one of a handful of newsrooms across the country to host multiple full-time journalists through Report for America.

One reporter will focus on public health issues specific to Akron, ranging from access to mental health care to reducing gun violence and access to the healthcare system, interrogating both systems and solutions from the perspectives of residents here.

The other reporter will cover economic development issues around Akron. This reporter will dig into the way economic trends in our area are affecting your lives and the lives of our traditionally marginalized neighbors. This includes profiling small business owners and entrepreneurs, but also critically engaging difficult questions about the unequal distribution of resources in our community. Like, what’s the actual impact of the new Amazon warehouse?

Here’s where we need your help, especially if you’re one of our new co-owners. While Report for America is broadcasting our job listings far and wide, we want to work with journalists who care about Akron. They can be a native who never left or someone who wants to return, as our editor-in-chief Rosalie Murphy did. We’ll even take an outsider who believes in our mission and wants to put down roots in Akron. You know, someone like me.

So please tell the writers and reporters you know about this opportunity. Here’s the listing for our Public Health Reporter and here’s the listing for our Economic Development Reporter.

This is the kind of work that’s always been part of our vision for what The Devil Strip can do to serve Akron. We’re on the verge of some big changes because of the support you’ve given us through the years, whether that’s giving a friend a copy of the magazine, sharing a favorite story on social media or gifting us words of encouragement in person, in an email and even by snail mail.

For those of you who have joined the co-op, I can’t tell you how much it means to us, so we’re just going to work that much harder to show you.

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