Joel Gross - CEO, Austin Monitor

As a graduate of the University of Texas Austin and the CEO of the Austin Monitor, Joel Gross has been interested and invested in what happens in the Austin community for some time.  At the Austin Monitor his mission is to educate residence on what is happening and shaping the city they live in.

Troy Schlicker: Good afternoon, Austin. Hope everyone is having a wonderful day today. I'm joined today by Joel Gross, the CEO of the Austin Monitor. We were just discussing prior to jumping on the wonderful hot weather that we still have here in mid September here in Austin, Texas. Again, it's a guy from.

Originally from up north. I'll still take the heat over the cold any day of the week. But I'm ready for some mid eighties weather instead of high nineties weather for sure.

Joel Gross: Yeah, like likewise for me, Troy, though, I did grow up here, so I should be used to it by now. But I still I was telling you earlier, late September at a hundred degrees is enough to make anyone anyone tired of the long summer here, and

Troy Schlicker: I've been here 17 years, so again, like it's, I'm, I've definitely, the blood, my blood was always thin.

Like I always hated the cold when I lived up north. So that's not, that part of it hasn't changed at all. But it's, again, it definitely gets to the point where you're like, Okay, a little cooler weather. don't, wouldn't mind a little kind of fall. And especially for me, like it is one of those things that I associate with.

Football, weather and going to, if you go to games and stuff, it's oh, it's like comfortable and you have to wear a sweatshirt. And here you're like you're having to check the stands to make sure that you're in the shaded side of the field, not the sunny side of the field. So that way you don't,

Joel Gross: That's I gotta give it up to those UT fans or the Austin FC fans that have been going to those games and just baking in that sun, I saw some of those on TV and I think that's a young person's game. I I don't know if I could do that for 3, 4, 5 hours in in some of that direct sun there.

Troy Schlicker: Yeah, for sure. So you are the CEO of the Austin Monitor. For those that don't know, what tells maybe a little bit about what the Austin.

Joel Gross: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So we are a non-profit, nonpartisan, local publication, really focused on in depth issues that are affecting the community. And our roots go actually back to the late nineties when the founders of the original publication called, in Fact had noticed a void in the local news and information space on This reporting focused on in depth issues, local government.

And they stood up this publication to address that need. And for a long time it was this very niche focused publication that just did really good in depth reporting. But a couple years ago right when I was coming on the board and I had really seen the information space change in Austin and across the country and we felt that there was really a high need amongst the community for people to have access to kind of the news that we were putting out there and not not necess.

A subscription fee to get that. The kind of news that we do really is intended to help inform the community. And, since we live in a governmental system as a democracy where we make collective decisions together, it really strengthens the community to have a, a good, solid information source that people can use and reference and ultimately make these shared decisions together.

About a year ago, last November, we switched our model to really become a member donor supporting model where all of our news and resources are now free for the community. And have had a really great response from that. We've had a lot new re a lot of new readers come in and I'm telling you, The city of Austin is changing so much that we really feel like we made this transition at the right time.

And the news space, which I know we'll talk about a lot more today is really changing a lot to us. So we feel like we're in a really strong position to continue to serve the community, which is what we do as a nonprofit. Nice.

Troy Schlicker: And so what got you. In interested or wanting to be involved in journalism, news, media, that kind of stuff, was that something that you'd always had a passion about as a young kid or what kind of, brought you to wanna go that route?

Yeah.

Joel Gross: Great. Great question. There actually is a picture of me as a very young kid wearing some of my dad's cast off clothes, reading a newspaper just emulating him. I don't know if that was. A harbinger or a sign that I would go into that's probably not. But really I got first exposed to the news information journalism space.

When I worked in Washington DC I worked for a senate there on Capitol Hill, but I was on the other side of the equation where I was trying to work with local news sources to try to get coverage and stories picked up about what was going on in Washington. But when I was there, it was right around 2009, 2010.

And you were really beginning to see some fracturing in the shared news and information space. Social media was really just starting working in DC there was, it was really pretty combative and acrimonious in the news space and that, that kind of put a marker in my head to.

Wow, this is this shared news and information space is really starting to encounter some major challenges. Someone should probably do something about that one day. And ultimately I made my way back to Austin. After DC and I worked in the non-profit space built my career there.

But when the Austin Monitor had approached me and I learned that they were thinking about really changing how they served the community to address this these challenges in the news space, I thought it was a great opportunity. It really leveraged that came full circle to my early career when I was working in, was.

Troy Schlicker: It's a good thing that over the last 10 years that divisiveness in the media has gotten better maybe. But that's a whole nother another thing. But it's interesting in the fact that like obviously free press, which, in the constitution is like one of the pillar ait part amendments in the Constitution, or one of the pillar rights in the constitution.

And obviously, nowadays that's media of any sort, whether it's television, print social media, all those kind of things like it, it is super important. But at the same point in time, because of advances in the internet and social media and stuff, it's also made running profitable newspapers, profitable media outlets in some degrees more challenging, right?

Like I like it's one of those where obviously it doesn't really matter what side of the alley you're on, you feel. Half of the media is is spewing lies against what you would believe is the truth in, in that regard. And But it's also one of those things where the hyperbole of a lot of the things that are out there is also what draws views and stuff.

So I, I feel like we're in an interesting time and it's, it really is. While it's been obviously happening for a number of years it's all, it, all it is still, if you take the 10,000 foot view, it is a really short amount of time. And I do think that in time things will start to get. understood better and handled better and less divisiveness will happen.

There'll always be cycles of that. The same with there are cycles of everything in world history, but but they were just in a time right now where there's it's, things are easily fractured and, you can have that divisiveness very easily. Unfortu.

Joel Gross: Yeah, I agree with you. And I'm glad you mentioned a couple of those points and I'll jump on them here, that, for the, most of the history of our country, which, does enshrine that right to a free press and how important that is in, in how we carry on.

The news was carried forward by for profit newspaper companies. They had a good business model where they could survive and also provided a civic service. And that was the dynamic that worked well for a long time. But, when the, when the internet, the kind of digital information revolution happened, Newspapers really were either slow to adapt or ignored this rising very powerful technology.

And the result is since 2004, 2000 newspapers across the country have shuttered. And that's because it has really become very challenging for-profit newspaper to the, to continue to survive. There's a lot of competition out there. The, especially most of these were driven forward from advertising dollars.

Now a lot of the advertising dollars are now going to more targeted technologies, whether it be social media, whether it be, your Googles of the world. And the industry in a very short period of time over these last really couple decades, has been reeling and the result.

This civic service that was provided, it needs to be carried forward in some capacity and that's why you're seeing a large kind of spike in these non-profit news organizations. In our backyard we have the Texas Tribune, which was one of the early leaders in the non-profit news space.

They launched in about, I think at the end of 2009. And when they first launched, there were, people in the industry were Oh, I don't know if this can work at scale. I don't know if this is gonna continue to thrive. The Tribune has done really well year after year, and now it's become, I would say, one of the preeminent news sources.

Not just in, in, in the country, but certainly in Texas. And I think, this concept, this model of, Hey, we're going to provide you a service. We're, and for our approach, it's not, we don't publish opinion pieces or editorials because there's such a demand for just fact driven news.

And it's really hard to find that. And I think the non-profit model is really forward looking. It's still very hard to stand up. It still certainly has its challenges as building any media organization. But I do think like putting the mission of an informed community, trying to build deep relationships with the community, putting that front and center is something that is going to be really important in our shared information space going.

Troy Schlicker: Definitely. Yeah. You mentioned having worked out in Washington DC and then coming back to Austin what were, so like for college, were you a journalism major? Was that something that you had focused in? Had you made that decision to of go that direction? In college or again, like a lot of people do you have a degree in mechanical engineering and you now worked as a journalist type of

Joel Gross: thing?

Yeah. Too funny. No, was certainly not smart enough to be mechanical engineer. I actually did go to ut, which has a great engineering school. I was in the the communication school, so there were certain journalists in my orbit, but I was. The broad kind of communica communication side, actually, corporate communications.

My first, very first role out of college was in working for the Coca-Cola company in Atlanta, doing corporate communications. I quickly realized, I needed something a little bit more. With a public service. That mission driven, if you haven't caught on, that really inspires my work and career.

And that's what led me to Washington DC for better or worse. And I'll tell you, Washington's pretty political. And like I said, it went in, was a very interesting time to be there and I learned a lot. The non-profit space really, I think, suits me best because you're really getting to put the impact and the mission front and center.

And the journalism space I guess came to me. But the exciting thing is that. While I of course work closely with a lot of the journalists on our team and the reporters, what we're not my focus area is on, is building this organization and also what the impact is.

And that means, how are we, how well are we doing informing the community? How equitably are we doing, a job of informing the Cade as a nonprofit that's meant to do that. And some of those areas that really haven't been front and center for news organiz. Are areas that I'm looking at in, in my role.

And I think that's what really excites me. Ultimately, at the end of the day, Austin's a really exciting city and community. But it's really faces some big questions right now. And I feel like we're at this special inflection point. And. To be able to share what's going on, these issues that we're taking on, and invite people to become informed and actually to be a part of these issues, to add their voice to those issues.

That's, I feel that's how you build like a strong community and that's, one of the more exciting areas of my work for sure.

Troy Schlicker: Yeah, definitely. Again the more, the closer you are to the issue, right? So again, if it's an issue in your backyard, when it comes to say a school or construction or development, stuff like that, obviously the more people tend to have a reason and a desire to get involved versus big versus a lot of times bigger.

Broader issues that feel like you're such a small voice in a sea of, 10 thousands, tens of thousands, millions of people and stuff that way. So it definitely can help inspire more people to want to get involved that way or, and to be, take interest. So it's easier for a small, a more localized paper to.

Kind of draw that interest than it is say, a larger statewide national type of paper where you're having to be broad in the topics that you cover, but then it doesn't necessarily really capture the interests of a lot of the people because it just doesn't really affect them imminently.

Joel Gross: Yeah, I think you make a great point on that, and that's actually what you're seeing, with your national papers, like your Wall Street Journal, your New York Times. They're gonna cover a lot of these issues that, affect us, but it's on a national stage. It can seem distant. A lot of times they'll frame it in a bit very of political light.

And they do that because, one that is helps engage a certain subset of their readers. And two, it's an easier way to break down that issue. On the local front you get to say, Hey, we're gonna actually look at this in relation to where you live. One of the features we have on our publication is the ability zoom into the stories that are in your city council district.

A lot of the stories we cover are broken out by the council districts. Affect the Austin area. And so all of a sudden, when you're reading a story based on an issue that is in your backyard that you mentioned, it takes a different light, almost what we hope , could be a little bit less political and a little bit more, pragmatic to understand, okay, this is what's going on.

This is how, this is what, how this might, This is how, you might be able to add your voice to it or you might be able to share with your neighbors. And that's a big part of what the ideal image is for local news. The problem is that you're getting a lot of competition in the new space.

And so you really have to build that strong connection with what your community is hoping to read, what they want to hear more of. And that's a big part of what we're trying to focus too. On the national scale. You can't really build that close relationship. You're. You your audience is your entire country.

The entire country for some regards. And so you're it's a little disconnected from that. And that's where I think, one of the advantages of the local news is in strength of the way that news was intended to be carried out. Yeah,

Troy Schlicker: you mentioned the, that like Austin's obviously facing some some challenges.

Every place does. What are some of the biggest challenges facing Austin over the next

Joel Gross: few years? Yeah, that's a good question. So we actually carried a series of stories this summer. We had to pull, that was commissioned by an organization called Notley.

And we were able to publish. Results of that, Paul, And anyone who's ever lived here or trying to live here has to put kind of housing at front and center, and you're seeing that a lot. We have this upcoming election the mayoral candidates all the way down to the city council candidates.

That is, is a top issue. Of course, anyone who's also ever lived in Austin has complained or endured the traffic. And so transportation is always gonna be that key infrastructure issue that's usually right up there as well. And so ironically it's probably, when you think about the main issues that are affecting the city, it there's no, I wouldn't call them big surprises.

You probably en encountered most. People that you chat with and interact with and probably encounter them in some capacities. The problem is these continue to endure because they're really hard issues, right? If there was easy solutions or black and white solutions we probably would have a addressed that in some capacity.

But I you. Austin is a dynamic city and so it's getting a lot of interest. And I think, when I was growing up in Austin, I'd always knew it was a special city. Everyone that came here reiterated that, but I don't think it necessarily had that national profile that it does right now.

I think what you're seeing is, and especially over the last couple years, there really a lot of eyes on on Austin and how it deals with this kind of influx. Of growth and. New business and new people and post pandemic. And so these, I think a lot of people across the country are seeing, what will this city look like in the next, 10, 20 years.

It certainly won't, won't be that same archetypal city of the small, sleepy college town that had a few, tech companies. The seat of state government there. It's different, right? What that looks like. We don't exactly know yet. Our goal is to like, help people like become a little bit more aware and then actually help them become a part of shaping what the what the future looks like.

If people don't feel like they have a voice or that they have agency and of creating what the community looks like, I think then you start to see some really know, some of these problems. Have tough answers or tough pathways forward. Really start to get a little bit a little bit heated and almost unproductive in the types of exchanges that you're happening.

Yeah.

Troy Schlicker: As a real estate agent, definitely have seen both, the, your two main issues, talk about their traffic and housing be some things front and center. It's also interesting to me how covid. Affected both of 'em. And it exasperated the housing side of things because you had so many who were moving from other parts of the country where they could find a place where they actually had a little bit more land, a little bit more space less, less expensive housing.

Even though if you live here, you don't feel like housing's expensive, but less expensive housing than, on the east coast or on the west coast in a lot of instances. But at the same point in time, because of all the work from home and hybrid work. Things that are going on potentially helped the traffic situation or at least delayed some of the problems that would've been a lot worse had that not been a factor or had that not been a solution to the work environment for a lot of people.

Because when I first moved here, like you could even tell a difference. Between summer when UT was in session and stuff and and when and or when they wasn't in session. And when it was in session and suddenly traffic got worse cuz everyone was back to their regular nine to fives and those summer vacations.

And so it's interesting how the impact that Covid had on both of those. One hope a little positively of delaying some of the, some of how bad it gotten. Unfortunately, on the other one, it made, definitely made it more challenging in the housing.

Joel Gross: Yeah, I think that's an interesting point.

I Any parent would know that there's a distinct change when school starts in terms of the tra the traffic, like you gotta add minutes not minutes, probably scores of minutes to your commute. A after that school goes in session. I actually pass a few schools on my daily commute and You can feel it.

I think, one of the interesting things that you had mentioned, and you we explore, like in this kind of post covid world that we're living in, is, what does that mean for these shared spaces, right? Your downtown areas have always been really defined by, the businesses, the workforce, and have been built around that in some regard, right?

And in downtown Austin, you have I 35 going right through downtown in one area. know, MoPac on the other side too. And they're designed for that a lot of time for the, for that commute and to go to work. And as that begins to change, what does that, what does that mean for these very communal spaces that we're having there?

And I think there is a lot of different pathways where that could move forward. And that's where I think it gets really interesting from a community perspective. I've lived here long enough, worked in the news long enough to know that there is very seldom clear cut answers to issues.

I think there is a lot of different angles to consider, but the reality is, as seen with the housing thing, we're approaching, a point that is getting like a little close to unsustainable, if not already there in some in some. Some of the areas that affect the community and, we really wanna try to get ahead of those.

We really want to try to come up with thoughtful solutions that pull in a lot of different voices and then try to move forward on those. But it is hard work. The, and Austin always a victim of ex success in some regard in that, it becomes this very desirable city. But then you're gonna face the challenges that come with that kind of with that kind of design.

Troy Schlicker: Sure. And I say in that regard, Covid didn't help because it did exasperate the amount of people moving here and again, Not necessarily everyone, but like the amount of people would've moved here eventually. Like we already knew the, kind of growth patterns. It just sped that up by five years or something like that.

As far

Joel Gross: as making that happen. Yeah. And that actually makes a difference because, a lot of these big, decisions that we're looking at, they're based on projections of future growth and change. And when you get a disruption in that for better or. It really puts a strain on the system, and it, no one would've predicted Covid, right? It's hard to predict that. It's hard to and no, that's one of the challenges that communities always face is that unpredictable aspect of it, right? Can you build strong system, strong infrastructure that really can be adaptable for kind of the unknown?

That's a hard, that's a hard thing to do, right? But I think, if anyone's a betting. Person on the future of Austin. I think it's Bush, right? I, and so I think we know that even that more now than we did three, four pre pandemic years. And with that in mind, we can take in that new information and really be like, okay, This is a city that we want to be, on the forefront a city that we really want to put in those top level kind of cities for the future.

What do we need to do to get there? And that's you need, people need a place to live, they need a way to move around. And that's why those fundamental issues are really, not just unique to Austin, unique to some of the other cities, but especially unique to Austin because of this dramatic.

These dramatic trends that have been occurring over the last couple years.

Troy Schlicker: Are there any smaller or, less impactful, significant things that you see going on that you're passionate about when

Joel Gross: it comes to Austin? Yeah, I think, an interesting one. And we had asked this in that poll that I mentioned earlier is the the kind of the environmental natural resources that, that lens.

Like we're just talking about the weather at the top of this, austin is and this summer, I think this July was the hottest July we've ever had on record. And when we talk about trends and seeing things that are coming up, With this influx of people, with some of the environmental like macro translator occurring there, that is going to shape that's gonna shape the city too.

I think a really interesting one is water. And that's something that. Our friends in, in, in the western part of the country are really dealing with right now. But I really do think that will be a key, a very more, it is an emergent issue, but it will probably be on the tip of people's tongues over the next decade.

Man, when it you water, is it fuels every part of life, right? Fu fundamentally need it to survive. And I think that's an area that we hope to report on more and go deeper and to give, our readers in the community, a deeper understanding of that. We've done.

Some really good stories on that this year, but I think that, it's funny we take those things for granted and that's when it starts to get , little bit dangerous because you just always say, Oh, these, the, these core essentials are always gonna be here. But that, that would be an area that I'm really curious on how we will navigate together over, in the coming.

Troy Schlicker: Oh, it's 100% something that we take for granted. And obviously there are some cities in the United States right now that have been having major water issues for different reasons that way. But it's also, again, if you look back at history, it's been one of the biggest.

Things that has affected civilizations. And not that I think that the city of Austin or any specific city in the United States is gonna be under siege and have to deal with lack of water coming in. But I you can go all the way back to the Rome and you know what? What was the ma what ended up really collapsing there was the fact that if you took out the aqueduct and their ability to have clean water, like that was the end of having a big, thriving metropolis and stuff.

And so it's it's definitely an issue that I think it, not that it doesn't get attention, but it is definitely something that a lot of people take for granted just because. There's no almost no one alive today that hasn't generally had access to here in the United States, I will say here in the United States that has had access to clean water out of a faucet almost their

Joel Gross: entire life.

Yeah. And I think, I think it was Cape Town South Africa that had there was called like a day zero where that was the day that essentially they would run outta water. And I just can't imagine what that would've been like for the city and the community. It actually. It was there was an inspirational kind of side of that story where, they were able to pull together, really conserve water and put in these very collective measures because, it is, it was so vital and it was so imminent that they had to do something drastic.

And I think unfortunately you're gonna see things like that happen. I'm, not sure if that, hopefully not in the near future, ever or ever for the Austin area, but there. Localities where that is is front and center, and then. Like it is. So you have to fall back on your ability to work through, navigate these shared challenges together as a community.

And that's where you need that almost what I'll call a muscle of, to be able to to interact with your neighbors, to share ideas with your neighbors to come up with pathways that don't have a clear answer and really and really find a way forward. That's that's where strong communities.

Really begin to shine because I can tell you like, another example of a, the natural resources is the freeze we had, right? And that is just these unexpected things that really tax a community. You have to be able to fall back on kind of the strength of the community.

Enable to to get through those things together. And, that's one of the areas that I feel like we're working in. I think Austin, I really do care about the community. And so we have a lot going for us on that front. But, still the ability to work through things is, oh, that's a challenge for it.

That's a challenge for people. That you mentioned civilization. That is that's a big challenge. And I think that's something that we hope we can strengthen with our work. And what we're trying to do for. Yeah,

Troy Schlicker: fortunately, and all these are definitely important issues.

Fortunately I do think it shows that it's not as eminent. The one of the things that is frustrating not with the awesome under both, with a lot of different organizations is wanting to create these. False deadlines. I don't know enough about the Cape Town thing where I like these false deadlines of, when the apocalypse is gonna hit for different purposes and stuff.

But the fact that the fortune fact is, it doesn't feel like we're actually there yet because a lot of the. For lack of a better word, crap that a lot of people tend to argue over and fight over and is divisive would seem, would go away if it really came down to, Hey, we need food, we need drinking water.

We need these super essential types of things. So on the one side, it's nice that obviously these things aren't quite as eminent or we would. Really have people coming together to find a solution because it was of such dire consequences on the bad side. It'd be nice if we didn't let it get to that before we decided to come together and actually create solutions to bo potential problems down the road.

Yeah,

Joel Gross: and I think you're right, but, and I just wanted to draw one of the points that you mentioned there is that, Unfortunately there are, some bad actors in this news and information space, right? And if your whole design is to is to make money, and you'll do that at all costs.

What you under, what you begin to undermine there is the public trust, right? And if you're putting out these, these, the sensationalist doomsday headlines to, to draw in attention that, that gets into the psyche of people. And can only cry wolf

Troy Schlicker: so often before people don't believe you're gonna cry that, that it's actually

Joel Gross: Wolf e.

Exactly. Yeah. And to some extent we saw some of that when we were navigating the pandemic. And that was one of the greatest challenges. It was probably the. Social challenge I've been doing in my lifetime in this modern information landscape. And I'll tell you it really exposed some vulnerabilities and weaknesses in that and it made me proud of the work that I'm doing.

But also a very curious and if not a little bit concerned for the next time something big comes up like this, because, it is the only way to get get through it is to have a good kind of set of facts and information that you can work on. And there's just a lot out there, right?

You mentioned. Social media provides a platform where everyone essentially becomes a publisher. Those gatekeepers of the of the news 50 years ago where you had to go through an editor, you had to go through a process that, that's rapidly disappearing and that's not coming back.

And I think in a way that gives people access to a lot more information, but the quality of that information can be very questionable. And there can be bad actors out there that take advantage of that.

Troy Schlicker: There's that, and the other downside to me is the fact that while it's super positive like you can be, you can live anywhere.

You can kinda do anything but you and you can find your community whether they're in your actual neighborhood or not. The downside of that being is that you can get in these echo chambers that only, that don't force you to think of outside of. What you've already believed to be true, is, and challenge your thought system and hey is ex is what I, and not that what people believe in a lot of cases might not be true, but you never get challenged by the other side of the coin and trying to debate that or see that side.

And that's I think a, again, a component of social media that is unfortunate. Say it's great that people can find. People, you know what, regardless of your interests or beliefs or thought process, you can find people and be a part of a community anywhere in the world.

That's amazing. But the flip side of that is then you don't ever have to listen to the people who think anything differently than you if you don't want to, you can just assume they're wrong on anything. ,

Joel Gross: Yeah. That's not the recipe for a healthy democracy. and It makes it uncomfortable to, to hear opinions that are different than ours or viewpoints that are different than ours.

But that's a way of life. And I will tell you that that one of the good things about newspapers is that, back in the day, they would expose you to these other types of angles on stories or issues that you might not have considered. And, that's one of the things that we'd like to do with our work.

The, district one is very different than like a district nine in, in, in the city of Austin. And like giving people some insight to be like, Hey, there's nuances and different like issues and different perceptions across this community. And that's not a bad thing, right?

And it's not a bad thing to see something differently than someone else, right? The fact that is, that's just the reality of how it is, but what you need. Build the kind of the muscle and the skill set is to, to be able to take in that kind of differing opinion, differing perception, differing viewpoint, have a conversation with someone about that, and then come out of that, not viewing them as an enemy, right?

But just viewing that as okay, I'm gonna take that in. And I think, social media politics in general has become very, Personal com an extension of your identity. And that makes it problematic because then you feel if someone different disagrees in you, they're threatening ver who you are as an individual.

And that was not how the system was meant to be designed. That's not how we will be able to press forward together on some of these major issues. And. It's really interesting space to be in, really interesting time to be building community and and for the city itself, like Austin, which is facing a lot of these, these really challenging issues just with the immense amount of growth and excitement that has come as part of the city.

Yeah.

Troy Schlicker: So what do you see? Where do you see the Austin Monitor going and over the next couple of years obviously you have the non-profit component to try to be able to shape things the way you guys see best. Are there any kind of changes that you guys see coming down the road or how do you perceive things going for your company?

Yeah, so

Joel Gross: yeah. Now that we've changed this model where everything is fully accessible to the community, regardless of your ability to, to contribute or pay. It opens up a whole new exciting. Pathway for us. And what we really like to do is to get out there in the community a bit more and build some deeper relationships with various areas across the city.

We news has this bad reputation of being viewed as like a one-way street of the news organizations saying, Hey, here's what's important. This is what you should read. And the way that we're approaching that is a bit differently of viewing it as a two-way street where.

These are the issues that's going on. What do you think about those? What would you like to see more of? And really building that strong relationship with the community to help inform the type of the stories and reporting and the type of work that we're doing. That's the exciting thing about a non-profit is.

Our our metric of success is not, it's not a bottom line. It's not a return on shareholder value. It's how well the community really is responding to the work that we're doing. And the way to do that is to get out there more. And so what we'd like to do is really begin to go out there, build relationships with the community in a way that we've never been able to do before in a way that you know, our.

Designation as a nonprofit helps us build that trust and build that relationship with the community. .

Troy Schlicker: That's awesome. So what are the best ways for people to obviously, find out, read the stories, find out about the information and get more involved with the Awesome Monitor?

Joel Gross: Yeah. Yeah. So a couple ways I wanted to share. The first is we actually have a big civic event coming up at the long center on October 5th. It's called City Summit. It's meant to Together, elected officials, city leaders, community members. To go a little bit deeper on some of the stories that we're reporting we have a few panels.

We have a mayor or forum. And so that's open. To the community. It's there we, the tickets are about 20 bucks for general mission. So it's meant to be accessible to everyone. We actually have some tickets if you can't afford a ticket, we have some reserve for for the community as well on that one.

It's meant to be very accessible in service to the community. Yeah, beyond that, I think our newsletter is our, probably our touchpoint to keep a pulse on what's going on every day. I know some people that, they'll get that daily email, they'll scan through the stories.

They might click in on a few, but, or they might just scan the headlines and that will help them keep a pulse on what's what's going on there. The third way is we are building out this kind of, aspect called our civic engagement opportunities. And that's where we have certain.

Editorial post tagged with this opportunity for you to take the next step. So if you've been following an issue, if you're really passionate about something that you read a couple of the, what we'll try to do is on our stories, we'll have this opportunity for you to say, Okay, here's what's going on for you to take the next step with what you're reading there.

And all three of those, these, some of these community based events, our newsletters, our. The civic engagement opportunities that will show up on our website as well. These are all meant to help you take the next step in your journey of building a stronger connection with the community.

The baseline, for the, an ideal person who's reading the Austin Monitor. So someone that I care about, the community, I'd like to learn a little bit more. I might be a little bit intimidated. How those local government runs or what these elected officials do. We're meant to be that place to, to give you that first step and to help you keep a deeper understanding and following these issues.

And that's if you're at that place and you're looking to learn a more about what's going on here, without kind of an opinionated kind of viewpoint. This is a good publication for you.

Troy Schlicker: Yeah. And we're less than less than two months away from an election. So it's great to get involved and actually try to spike some midterm election turnout, which obviously usually is not near to the same level as the presidential election

Joel Gross: turnout.

It is a tough one, but I'll tell you man the Austin Austin has a really high registered voter count. And I think again, that's a point of pride for the city. So now can we activate that we'll be putting out for the local election, kind a resource, which aggregates all of our stories and gives you all the information you need.

I would recommend for folks like if it's much easier to actually go make it to the voting booth, if you have a plan and have a friend that you can go with I recommend it to everyone to say, Okay, set a day when you're gonna go call friends, say, Hey, we're gonna go up there together.

Map it out. And studies have shown that if you do those little steps, you're much more likely to do it. And it's really hard. Life is busy, we got kids school work going on. But this is the opportunity for you to say, Hey, here's what, here's the direction where I'd like the, where I'd like the community to go.

That's a sacred, that's a sacred opportunity and that's the way that we view it. And the more people that go and add their voice and turn out to vote I believe the stronger the community is. It, we're hoping that it will be a really I know it'll be an interesting election.

We're hoping that it is a turnout is really good for the election too. Plus,

Troy Schlicker: if you're one of those people who thinks that, your vote's not that important, like midterms are the ones where it actually impacts it more because there's fewer overall turnouts, so you can add a bigger

Joel Gross: impact.

So true. It's funny, on the local level, you can see elections be shaped by, a handful of votes. And so that is real. On the national level, when you vote for president, you say, Oh, there's millions of votes. Difference as though I'll tell you, there have been some really close elections over the last couple decades.

But on local level, that's when it really , every single vote carries even more weight on.

Troy Schlicker: Definitely. Cool. Yeah. I appreciate you taking the time to to jump on and do the podcast with me today, Joel. The say for people that are looking to the, Joel mentioned all those different things.

I'm assuming the website, the Austin Monitor p a great place to get more information about those specific events and potentially sign up for the newsletter if you'd like to, as.

Joel Gross: Yeah, absolutely. That's a starting place. Everything is house there. And like I said, spread the word. A lot of people were starting to learn who the Austin Monitor is.

But now that everything on there is fully free and meant for you to consume you could very easily get lost on a rabbit hole. Chasing down water conservation issues. Might be might be fun in its own ride if you if you're in the right mindset for that. But yeah, the website is the main spot to go to.

Awesome.

Troy Schlicker: appreciate joining me today and I hope you have a wonderful rest of your week. Stay. Yeah. Thank you very

Joel Gross: much, Troy.

 

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