More than a year ago, researchers studying local news in the Houston metro area learned something critical to the launch of the Houston Landing.
“The community often times feels left out of the news,” said a nonprofit director in east Harris County, who was one of hundreds of residents who participated in the study. “I think there’s a lot of feelings of being forgotten, being left out, and the light not being shined on the community since [Hurricane] Harvey.”
It shouldn’t take a natural disaster to make our communities feel heard, seen and valued.
It just takes a vision that is as big and bold as Houston.
This is why we are announcing today the launch of Houston Landing, an independent nonprofit news organization devoted to public service journalism that will be digital-only and nonpartisan.
Houston Landing’s mission
Our mission is to strengthen democracy and improve the lives of all Houstonians one story at a time. Because we want to serve as many people as possible, our content will always be free, with no paywalls or subscription fees. It will also be available for other media organizations to publish.
The American Journalism Project, which helps build nonprofit newsrooms, conducted surveys, interviews and focus groups with residents of Greater Houston. The message was clear: People do not feel they have access to the trustworthy, local and deeply reported stories they need for their daily lives.
We’re trying to fix that.
The Houston Landing will provide trusted reporting about local issues important to our region, stories that offer solutions to pressing problems and investigative journalism that keeps the powerful accountable.
The Landing (we’ll get to the story behind our name shortly) will focus on watchdog coverage of governments and institutions in Harris County and our suburbs. We will tell stories that reflect the region’s dynamic diversity.
We will offer stories and information that help residents make decisions about their daily lives — from accessing public services to participating in democracy — empowering them to engage in their communities and city.
Mizanur Rahman, Houston Landing’s editor
I am the Landing’s founding editor in chief. I was a newsroom leader at the Houston Chronicle for 15 years. You can read more about our team here – including our chief executive officer Peter Bhatia, who is the former editor and vice president of the Detroit Free Press.
We’ll begin introducing ourselves through a weekly newsletter that will feature columns from myself or managing editor John Tedesco, a veteran journalist and former investigative reporter. We’ll take you along the journey of our founding and talk about what we value and why you are important. The newsletter will also feature a weekly column from Maggie Gordon, one of Houston’s best writers.
We will launch our full website with daily stories and content later this spring. We’ll keep you updated on our progress in our newsletter.
Three of Houston’s leading philanthropies — the Houston Endowment, Kinder Foundation and Arnold Ventures — have provided our seed funding. The American Journalism Project is also serving as a seed funder, along with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. So far $20 million has been pledged for the effort.
Houston Landing: Origins of a name
Now, about our name!
The two most important landings in Houston history happened more than 130 years apart.
The first, in 1836, was when brothers John and Augustus Allen landed near Buffalo Bayou and founded Houston by acquiring some 6,600 acres of property. Allen’s Landing park, sitting on the edge of downtown, pays tribute to the site described as Houston’s Plymouth Rock.
The next defining landing happened in 1969 when Johnson Space Center in Houston directed the Apollo 11 mission to the moon where Neil Armstrong made his leap for mankind.
Grand ambition and vision shouldered both landings. But it’s not just landmarks and legacy we hope to acknowledge with our name.
When I told a former colleague about Houston Landing a few months ago, she said, “The name makes me think of all the people who come to Houston and land on their feet.”
They have been landing for decades. Migrants from Mexico who helped build the Houston Ship Channel. Refugees from Vietnam who settled in Galveston. Black farmers who fled the rural deep South. Workers from other states who were drawn by the city’s oil booms. Entrepreneurs who are now invigorating our tech hubs.
Landing is a launching point, a platform — which we will strive to be — for the exchange of ideas and solutions and stories.
The Allen brothers saw in the sweltering swamp and bugs of the bayou an origin story with a vast future. The men and women of the Johnson Space Center seized on the impossible and showed the way. The young and old of this city, the executives and the cooks, the immigrants and oil barons, the artists and activists — they are transforming Houston into one of the most dynamic and diverse places in the country.
The Landing will follow their journey to tell stories of promise and perseverance, to document exploding suburbs and changing wards, to defend democracy and fix problems, to engage the curious and champion the voiceless.
The thread tying all these stories together is a powerful trumpet call. It is one we share and will honor.
We have landed.