Cassie Young was working in government research and community organizing when she heard from her network that they learned more from her Instagram than from the local news. Investigative journalist Jaelynn Grisso was frustrated by the lack of on-the-ground community engagement in corporate newsrooms. When we met in 2018, we teamed up to create a locally-owned and operated nonprofit news source.
We established Grey Matter Media that year and became fiscally sponsored by the Institute for Nonprofit News. The grey matter in our brains helps us to simultaneously think and act, and that’s what we aim to do with our content. Our vision is equitable and sustainable community engagement in central Ohio, because engagement builds trust and connection in the community.
Together, we curated a team of young locals diverse in race, gender, sexuality and socioeconomics. The model we devised takes deep dives into issues of local importance via explainers, animations, podcasts, documentaries, interactive maps and more. Our content is free to consume and republish because accessibility is a core value of ours. We opened our first matter in November 2018, an investigation into city growth and development called DevelopUS.
In Matter’s first 2 years, with an all-volunteer team and no outside funding, we assembled a team, established an organization, devised a unique model, created an editorial structure, produced company messaging and branding, launched a website, crafted email newsletters, built and grew an audience, hosted multiple online and in-person events, raised $20,000 and published over 13 pieces of multimedia news content. We also had three mini documentaries, a full-length documentary, an investigative podcast series and a database under development.
Since then, we have raised $27,104, and now pay all content contributors (many of whom we mentor) and are hiring a part-time editor. With a $2,000 grant, our team built a portable A/V studio so we can report from neighborhoods rather than on them. We planned to take it out regularly until COVID and instead published a crowdsourced map where our audience can submit their own footage and testimony.
We highly value collaboration with community partners and media outlets. Our partners at Columbus Navigator are providing funding and republishing. Local NPR station WCBE is providing studio and air time, and we have several smaller, independent partners.