By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

CommonWealth, a policy-oriented nonprofit, will rebrand and expand

CommonWealth Magazine is about to unveil a rebranding and an expansion. The nonprofit website, which covers state policy and focuses on “politics, ideas and civic life,” will be reborn as CommonWealth Beacon on Nov. 1. I’m a member of the advisory committee, and we just finished a meeting at which the redesign was unveiled. It’s clean and minimalistic, and it translates well to mobile.

CommonWealth is part of the Massachusetts Institute for a New Commonwealth, or MassINC, which I would describe as centrist and serious. The magazine ended its print edition in 2018, so the digital rebranding is long overdue. The journalism will remain free, though Beacon will offer various paid membership tiers with extra goodies.

The best part is that the project is staffing up, having added two reporters and two people to work on audience engagement and fundraising. Content will be available for free to other publications in the hopes that the local news startups that have sprouted in Massachusetts will use it to bolster their coverage. The email that went out to readers earlier this afternoon follows.

Dear CommonWealth reader,

We are writing today with exciting news:

On November 1, CommonWeath will become CommonWealth Beacon, a new name for a new era of expanded civic journalism for Massachusetts.

The decline in for-profit journalism, the rise in misinformation and the increasingly fractured and polarized civic culture underscore the need for a response. We believe independent, non-partisan, non-profit civic journalism is an essential antidote to these troubling trends.

That is why we have been working to develop a strategy and find the resources to fuel an expansion of our journalism. We took time to learn from our peers across the country, craft a business plan, and raise the seed funding that would allow us to hire more people and build a sustainable business model. In recent months, we have hired four new people — two reporters and two people to work on reader engagement and fundraising — to prepare for the launch of CommonWealth Beacon.

Rest assured, CommonWealth Beacon will retain much of what our readers love about CommonWealth — non-partisan, original reporting on the issues that matter to Massachusetts residents. As we grow, we can cover more stories, across a wider range of issues, with more detail and expertise:

    • CommonWealth Beacon will also feature a renewed commitment to long-form journalism through CommonWealth In-Depth and a rebranded opinion section called CommonWealth Voices.
    • Look for new polling about Massachusetts and our weekly podcast, The Codcast, kicks off with a live discussion at 3:15 pm ET on November 1 about the state of Massachusetts democracy with Harvard professor Danielle Allen.

We also intend to give our content away to other news outlets in Massachusetts to help strengthen local news coverage across the state. In the lifeboat of local journalism, no one is a competitor and everyone is a potential collaborator.

We see CommonWealth Beacon as a partnership among civic-minded people who understand that independent journalism is essential to a functioning democracy. As a subscriber to our newsletter, you are already a partner. We invite you to deepen your engagement by encouraging others to subscribe, by joining our membership program (details to come very soon), and by giving us feedback so we can improve. CommonWealth Beacon will be a collective enterprise and we need as many people as possible to get involved.

Thank you again for helping us to get to this exciting moment. We see this as just the beginning with much more to come in the months ahead.



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  1. Mary Hobbins DeChillo

    I have been an avid Commonwealth Magazine reader since the days of its print edition.

    The disappearance of local journalism is a threat to “small d” democracy as local governance and decision-making so easily slip into the shadows in absence of local reporting.

    Each day that passes in our town, there seems to be yet another reason for its residents to receive the benefit of accurate information.

    Thank you for advancing the principles of serious journalism at a time when it is so desperately needed.

  2. timcoco

    I hope they are serious and actually collaborate. I used to call the company MassINK because of the staff’s snobbery relating to anything non-print.

  3. Stephen R Nelson

    No more comments on Commonwealth, Dan? Some were nuts or worse, others were pretty good.

    • Dan Kennedy

      I remember one of the times that we changed the CMS at GBH and used the opportunity to get rid of comments. No one missed them.

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