Media future

Jose Antonio Vargas and the LA Times agree to break up

jose-antonio-vargas-michael-conti.jpgPhoto by Michael Conti.

Journalist and advocate Jose Antonio Vargas today announced a new crowdshare fundraising campaign for his initiative on race and immigration, #EmergingUS, that does not mention the Los Angeles Times. The flackage for the new affiliation with Beacon doesn't mention the LAT, nor does Vargas' bio with the release. Quite a change from last February, when the Times and then-publisher Austin Beutner announced that Vargas would become a business partner (as an undocumented immigrant, he can't be hired) and run a section of the LA Times website devoted to Vargas' view of race and immigration.

The plan was for #EmergingUS to be "a multimedia platform that, through articles, original videos, shareable data and graphics, will focus on the intersection of race, immigration and identity and the complexities of multiculturalism." Though Vargas could not be hired, others were brought onto the Times staff, including #EmergingUS managing editor Alejandra Campoverdi. But if they ever put out any work product at the Times, it didn't register with readers, though Vargas remained an active tweeter on immigration and race issues. By September, Beutner was fired and #EmergingUs went quiet as an LA Times partner, though Vargas has been active with his Define American nonprofit and as the producer and director of “Documented,” a CNN Film that chronicled his life as an undocumented immigrant, and “White People,” which aired on MTV last year and discussed what it means to be young and white in contemporary America. One of Vargas' MOs is to lecture whites on what he thinks they don't know about immigrants.

For the new announcement, the Times says of Vargas in a statement to Nieman Lab: "The Los Angeles Times and Jose Antonio Vargas agreed to transfer the assets developed for #EmergingUS to Vargas’ company so that he may pursue the project independently. We have enjoyed collaborating with Jose and wish him every success with #EmergingUS.”)

Here's the flackage on Vargas' newest iteration of #EmergingUS:

Today, Jose Antonio Vargas, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and filmmaker, announced he’s launching a crowdfunding campaign for a new video-centric digital platform – #EmergingUS. With the goal of raising $1M in matching funds over 60 days, #EmergingUS will be the largest U.S.-based journalism crowdfunding campaign to date. Beacon, the journalism crowdfunding company, will match every dollar pledged by readers.

Like no other media platform, #EmergingUS speaks to the America of today and tomorrow, where minorities are already the mainstream. Through original digital content, including essays, articles and especially video, #EmergingUS will produce multimedia stories that live at the intersection of race, immigration, and identity in an increasingly diverse America. A 2015 report from Pew Research Center projected that, in the next 50 years, immigrants and their descendants, largely Latinos and Asians, will make up 88 percent of U.S. population growth.

By working with Beacon, #EmergingUS offers readers a unique opportunity to create a news organization that directly serves them, and that reflects their diversity. When a reader makes a pledge, they’ll become part of an active dialogue about issues of race and immigration that are largely missing in media coverage, particularly in a historic presidential election year in which American identity is at stake.

“Our country’s identity is changing, yet we are not telling the full and complex story of what this looks like. For the most part, the media’s coverage of race is too simplistic, much too Black-and-White, at a time when the country has grown more Latino, more Asian and more biracial and multiethnic,” said Jose Antonio Vargas. “To tell the stories of an emerging America, #EmergingUS needs the independence to produce stories that are usually underreported, if not misreported, and spark much needed dialogue. This means raising the funds to enable this freedom, and I’m honored to partner with Beacon, which has been breaking new ground in its support of compelling journalism.”

Founded in September 2013, Beacon’s technology connects readers to the reporters who cover the issues they care about. By empowering readers to fund projects directly, it creates journalism that’s relevant, impactful and sustainable. To date, Beacon has paid more than $3M to journalists, and has worked with brands like The Huffington Post, San Francisco Chronicle and The Nation.

The #EmergingUS campaign marks Beacon’s largest venture yet.

Vargas is a Filipino citizen who was brought to the U.S. as a child and raised here. As a journalist he reported for the Washington Post and Huffington Post, and in 2011 wrote an essay for the New York Times magazine about being undocumented. His Twitter bio now refers to him as the "undocumented gay Filipino American. Founder of @EmergingUS and @DefineAmerican."

Here's his tweet about today's news:

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