Local ownership of The Pitch will preserve the Kansas City alternative news publication’s voice, as well as expanding digital content for readers, and promotions and services for advertisers, Stephanie Carey said.
“I love the independent voice. I love the fact that we can push those boundaries, push the envelope on stories, dig a little deeper,” said Carey, new publisher and CEO of the newspaper. “And in doing so, I think we better serve the city.”
Stephanie and Adam Carey announced the purchase of The Pitch from SouthComm Inc. Tuesday. The married duo will lead the eight-person operation at 1627 Main St. as Carey Media. Stephanie Carey’s career includes reporting stints at newspapers and on the radio, as well as most recently serving as a sales manager for media software and consulting firm Second Street.
The change marks the first return to Kansas City-based ownership since The Pitch was acquired in 1999 by Village Voice Media, which later sold it to SouthComm in 2011.
“Because The Pitch is once again owned locally, we’re going to have the ability to be more nimble than a corporate-owned media company,” she said. “Independent local media really is the right home for us. That means me being in there, getting my hands dirty every single day, answering phones, picking up trash and anything else that needs done. There’s nothing I’m above doing.”
Carey said her husband, vice president of sales for startup Cambrian Tech, which won the 2017 LaunchKC grand prize, has been a great partner in The Pitch acquisition and early days of new management. Adam Carey serves as the new media company’s chief operating officer.
“He didn’t share my initial background in journalism, but he brings to the table so many things that I don’t have,” she said. “So he’s definitely a great asset to the ownership.”
Fresh faces, content consistency
Carey, a longtime reader of the publication, pledged that The Pitch’s most treasured features wouldn’t be going anywhere. Such content as as Bartender’s Notebook and Music Forecast will continue, as well The Pitch’s signature events, including Best of Kansas City, Margarita Wars and the Bacon & Bourbon Festival, she said. A previously discontinued online events calendar also will be revived, Carey said.
Other content questions have been predictable, she said.
“Most people want to know if we’re going to stay in print. And the answer is, ‘Absolutely, yes.’ I have no desire to ever discontinue our print publication,” Carey said. “We are going to stay monthly for now because it’s working for us, and we have the right size staff to put out a monthly publication. I actually think people are enjoying the look and feel of it.”
Freelance writers will play significant role with the Careys’ operation — as they have throughout The Pitch’s nearly-40-year history, she said.
“We have a really fantastic fleet of contributors,” Stephanie Carey said. “It’s really important to mention them because they’re really the life of what happens in our content. So many of them are dedicated, passionate reporters with so much talent. We’re so lucky to have them.”
Transition amid industry turmoil
One noticeable change: Longtime staffer David Hudnall has been named as editor, succeeding the outgoing Scott Wilson, who served in the role for seven years. Wilson announced his departure in a Dec. 22 column that also referenced the ownership announcement to come.
“I know survival is a low bar, but look around at the media firmament and nod along with me: The value of continued existence is impossible to overstate (along with local ownership, which is huge). Especially if that existence remains informed by skepticism (not cynicism, and never merely anger) and driven by hyper-local curiosity — qualities this publication’s contributors have always drawn on to produce its award-winning journalism,” he said. “Journalism being the object. Nothing less. Sometimes way more. This year has demonstrated how badly that’s needed. Everywhere.”
Hudnall addressed the ownership transition in a piece published online late Tuesday.
“A new, supportive owner is the good news. The bad news is that local media is a very difficult place to turn a buck,” he said. “Over the last decade, Craigslist, Google, and Facebook have essentially destroyed the business model of publications like ours. We’re working with pretty limited resources over here.”
So why take a risk on The Pitch?
“Ever since I was a journalist major in college, my first career dream was to go off to New York and become the editor of a teen magazine, thinking that would be such a great legacy to leave behind,” Stephanie Carey said. “Now I’m 40, and I can write for those teens — they just aren’t teens anymore. And we’re serving an audience that’s part of a real community. I love the alternative media so much because of the type of journalism and content that we can put out, as well as the kinds of events we can put on. … I mean, ‘Bacon and Bourbon’? Who doesn’t like that?”
For readers concerned about the ownership change, Carey said she hopes they understand The Pitch’s transition is vastly different than that of alternative publications like the LA Weekly, a former Village Voice newspaper that recently was gutted by a new mystery owner.
“The Pitch is the polar opposite of that situation. Here you have a journalist in your print publisher who cares about journalism, who loves this community, who lives within a couple miles of the office,” she said. “And we certainly are not these big investors with all the cash. That’s not us. We’re just regular people who care.”