This Land gets bigger today. And this land gets better, too.
I mean that in every possible sense: we’ve expanded the print version of This Land, we’re distributing it for the first time in Oklahoma City and central Oklahoma, and our stories reach greater depth and breadth as we continue our journey to better understand life in the Middle of America.
Let me give you a little more detail.
Most narrowly, if you’re a regular reader of This Land, you’ll note that we’ve added eight pages to this issue. This is both because there’s a lot to say about our shared home in the middle of America and because we want to keep to our commitment that advertising is our means, not our end. We won’t overload This Land with ads even though it might mean greater short-term profitability. Rather, the lion’s share of This Land will always be high quality long-form journalism, providing real long-term value to our advertisers.
More broadly, if you’re a new reader in Oklahoma City or other parts of central Oklahoma, welcome. This Land Press is an experiment in journalism in which many Oklahomans are already taking part. You may know us already as This Land, a statewide television show on Cox Cable, or a website (www.thislandpress.com), or a Facebook community, or a podcast in the iTunes Store, or an app on your iPad that combines print, video, and audio.
But our premium product is the broadsheet you’re holding in your hands right now. We are distributing this issue in Oklahoma City because of the importance of its stories about the bombing to our larger Oklahoma community. On June 15, we will begin distributing every issue in Oklahoma City at Full Circle Books and other distributor-partners, as well as other cities in central Oklahoma. (You’re welcome to subscribe for immediate delivery anywhere in the world through our website, or to download the free iPad app and then purchase copies for tablet reading and viewing.)
Most expansively, this land is the place where we live together, not just a geographic location but also an idea. Our goal for This Land Press is to enrich our shared understanding of this place, to gain greater context for the issues swirling around us, to probe the culture and history underlying us, and to live our lives better by seeing more clearly.
We believe that making the ideas expressed in This Land accessible to more people in Oklahoma will help make our home a better place. We certainly won’t always share the same views, but if a conversation breaks out, we’re stronger.
Why are we doing this and what is this journey that we’re on?
If you’re a new reader let me explain—and if you’re a regular reader, let me remind you—how we started, our goals, and where we’ve been so far.
We began This Land Press two years ago as optimistic about the future of the publication as we were certain that the world of journalism is turning upside down. Our purpose is to reinvent how you—the reader…or viewer…or listener…or web-surfer—understand media, and to do so in ways that make sense, without predispositions, always listening to our community of users.
We have staked out an ambitious mission for This Land Press:
Our mission is to chronicle life in Oklahoma through courageous, compelling stories. With a mindful diligence to narrative, we will steward our community’s well-being and interests. We aspire to become the most reputable media voice in the middle of America, while remaining pledged to the story of the people of Oklahoma and opposed to the injustices that surround us. Our goal is to form a loyal community that will in turn nurture and sustain our enterprise.
In a world that has convinced itself we only think in sound bites and tweets and posts on Facebook, these are big ideas for today’s journalists. Story-telling, courage, and justice. That’s what we want to be.
We’ve received encouragement. Most importantly, from Oklahomans: data shows that This Land is read, viewed, or listened to by more than 200,000 people every month. Our Facebook community is more than five times the size of the community of Tulsa’s 100-year-old legacy newspaper. Oklahoma Public Radio KOSU airs our audio programs over a four-state area every Friday morning. It’s rare for first-run non-syndicated television programs to earn Nielsen ratings; we did. The Columbia Journalism Review, the journalism world’s premier commentator, profiled This Land Press last year and called us both “The New Yorker with balls” and “a rare example of literary journalism at the local level.” We’re proud of both descriptions.
In pursuing these goals, we recognize that there are some things that This Land Press cannot be.
This Land is not about information.
Information has moved permanently to a more efficient domain—the many domains of the Internet. We can learn about events in Syria, presidential primaries, trash collection contracts in City Hall, or recipes for Chicken Pot Pie more quickly and efficiently and from more reliable sources on smart phones, Facebook, 24 hours cable news, or the web. Information is ubiquitous. We don’t need it dropped on our driveway.
Our purpose at This Land Press will always be the story of Oklahoma itself, over time, as a culture and a place. That’s what great journalism is all about. To enable a community to better understand itself, to see itself more clearly, to move forward with greater certainty.
Here’s another thing that This Land Press will not always be: it will not always be a newspaper. Or a TV show. Or a website. Or a podcast. Or any particular form of media.
Publishers can no longer dictate to you what form their publications shall take. You will tell us. This Land Press will be ready and able to offer choices, with many stories in more than one media. For example, we don’t just print major interviews: we film them and let you draw your own conclusions. You can read about it in our print paper, but you will also be able to view it online or listen to a podcast. When we visit a restaurant, you’ll join us in the kitchen with the owner or chef and hear its story.
We will follow your lead. And together, we’ll explore the new modalities, both those that exist today and others that will appear tomorrow. We enter without prejudices or already-invested capital. Our only bet is that quality content distributed in an accessible manner will appeal to Oklahomans.
Another thing that This Land will not be is wasteful.
We charge two dollars for our newspaper because we believe it has value. We want you to value it too. We respect Oklahoma’s free press and legacy newspapers and television and radio stations but believe This Land is different.
This Land has already demonstrated its ability to maximize the potential of a broadsheet through the use of smart design, large-scale photography, and interrelated collections of stories. Each printed issue of This Land is a unique experience, unparalleled anywhere in Oklahoma. Readers tell us they notice the feel of This Land, that our paper is a different kind of paper. It looks different. We value it and promise that old stacks of unread newspapers will not be piled somewhere, out of sight, in dumpsters or warehouses.
And finally, This Land Press will not be timid.
Courage underpinned our coverage of Private Bradley Manning and Wikileaks, Tate Brady and the Tulsa Race Riot, and a reporter’s personal account inside Oklahoma’s death chamber. The world celebrates courage. Already, This Land has been referenced in Harpers, The Daily Beast, Monocle, MSNBC’s Today Show, National Public Radio, and a host of other national and international outlets.
Part of the reason our work is internationally recognized is because great journalists offer us their guidance. Our board of editorial advisors contains a senior executive at Google Books, an acclaimed novelist, a former editor of Harper’s, a celebrated Native American poet, a respected New York publisher, and an Emmy award-wining network news producer.
We will try many new things. Some will succeed and others will fail. But one of our legacies will be innovation. That is why we view ourselves as Oklahoma’s first New Media Company. It’s a technical term, describing exactly what we’re doing across media. But it also captures the spirit of what we’re doing.
As we grow This Land, we don’t know where it will end up. We’re setting out on a journey with you. We’ll make just one important promise: This Land is your land and it always will be.