In 2017, three Florida women alarmed by the lack of in-depth environmental reporting in Florida and the sobering collapse of regional newspapers and local journalism across the nation came together to launch an independent reporting nonprofit, The Marjorie (themarjorie.org).
Dr. Hannah O. Brown, Becca Burton and Anna Hamilton named the new platform after three “sheroes”: Marjorie Harris Carr, who led the fight to stop the Cross Florida Barge Canal; Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, the Cross Creek author who wrote about people in rural Florida; and Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the former Miami Herald journalist who became an environmental activist at age 79 and helped save the Everglades.
Five years later, The Marjorie has become a nonprofit model that offers a glimpse of what the future of journalism could look like as philanthropy begins to fill the deep gaps left by corporate newspapers’ divestment from local news. Funded by a combination of NGO grants and reader support, the team has published revelatory Florida stories and won a string of prestigious journalism awards. They have been recognized by the Society of Environmental Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists and others for projects such as:
– Dispatches from a Sinking State, an unprecedented collection of first-person essays highlighting climate stories from across Florida. *
– The Fruits of Their Labor, a four-part series published in collaboration with Southerly about the University of Florida’s historic reliance on incarcerated labor.
– A Sugarcane Boiling Point, a three-part series about south Florida’s sugar industry and the widespread practice of cane burning, and its impact on surrounding communities.
The team reached key milestones this year including hiring their first employee — and landing grants from the Knight Foundation to establish sustainable publishing strategies and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting to report on climate harm to irreplaceable Florida cultural sites. Writer Stephenie Livingston recently published an in-depth report on the race to save Turtle Mound at Cape Canaveral National Seashore, the tallest Indigenous shell mound in the mainland United States and a symbol of Native heritage at risk of erosion across Florida and other coastlines.
Women owned, independent and Florida-centric, The Marjorie is “dedicated to covering Florida’s deeper story through an environmental and social justice lens,” with a mission to cover environmental issues in a way that considers human values and important historical and cultural contexts. The team also works to turn around the harmful “Florida Man” and “Weird Florida” memes that often shame mental illness and poverty.
As many local newspapers continue their heartbreaking decline, The Marjorie and its three founders are proving as inspirational as their namesakes. Check out themarjorie.org to read in-depth Florida stories; learn more about Brown, Burton and Hamilton; subscribe to the newsletter; and support a foundation for in-depth environmental reporting in Florida.
*In “Dispatches,” look for an article on Gainesville activist NKwanda Jah published on April 30, 2021.