Imagine you’re part of a family of five, but four of you let the other one decide what everyone eats for dinner, every night. That’s Jacksonville elections: a small minority controlling what happens to everyone.
In the last Duval County election that didn’t have a president on the ballot, just over 20% of eligible voters showed up to have their say. The vast majority of registered voters sat on the sidelines in February 2022, when we had a chance to pick a countywide at-large City Council member (and just over 13% voted in the countywide election before that). And yet those elected officials make decisions that touch every resident of one of the largest cities in the U.S.
The American Economic Review links low voter turnout with the nationwide decline in local reporting, citing that “turnout is depressed when voters have limited information about issues, candidates and elections.” Jacksonville’s traditional media landscape has shifted and shrunk in recent years, mirroring the decline in election participation. That’s why WJCT Public Media created Jacksonville Today: a non-partisan and nonprofit local news alternative rooted in civic engagement and embracing digital media’s many strengths.
Jacksonville Today launched its first product, a namesake email newsletter, in October 2021, heralding the arrival of a new way to stay informed on matters of local impact. Every weekday morning, subscribers receive a succinct mix of original, in-depth reporting, news highlights from around the region, and ways to get involved — in a format that’s quick to scan and easy to share. Since its debut, the newsletter has achieved a 55.79% open rate. (For comparison, MailChimp reports that the media and publishing industry average is 22.15%.)
Jacksonville Today’s newsletter and reporting are fueled by a dedicated team within WJCT Public Media’s newsroom, including longtime Editorial Director Jessica Palombo; newsletter and engagement editor Ric Anderson; three reporters; three opinion columnists and exclusive content from the Florida Center for Government Accountability and local city planning blog The Jaxson.
In less than a year, Jacksonville Today has become a morning read for more than 9,000 subscribers — and a trusted source of guidance for a growing, engaged, and informed readership who’s eager to play a role in the city’s evolving story.