Grid hires 3 journalists to boost political, news coverage ahead of midterms

Startup news organization Grid is adding three journalists to its editorial team to boost news and politics coverage ahead of the midterm elections this November.

Since the site went live in January, Grid’s editorial team has grown by 30% to 32 reporters, editors and copy editors. Eight reporters, editors and other editorial staff were added to the team since the beginning of the year in areas such as data visualization, and the science and public health beats. Now, three more staff members have come aboard.

GRID BULKS UP

  • Grown editorial team by 30% since January launch: eight team members added earlier this year and three more joining now
  • Newest staff members will cover policy, politics, misinformation, midterms, trending stories, daily news
  • Adding branded content, sponsored live events to revenue streams later this year
  • Launching new franchise in 2022 with potential to test subscription products in 2023

Leah Askarinam joined Grid as a senior editor on Aug. 1 and will lead coverage on policy, politics, misinformation and the midterm elections. Askarinam was one of the writers for The New York Times’ “On Politics” newsletter. Previously, she served as editor-in-chief of the National Journal’s newsletter “Hotline,” and she has also worked at Inside Elections LLC and The Atlantic. 

Grid also hired Christian Thorsberg and Justin Ray (formerly of the Los Angeles Times and the Columbia Journalism Review) in July to work with Grid’s senior editor Suzette Lohmeyer on a new team dedicated to trending stories and daily news. Lohmeyer joined Grid this spring from NPR, where she created and edited NPR’s coronavirus newsletter “The New Normal.”

Grid’s audience data shows the site reaches “a bipartisan, senior-level audience of policymakers and political influencers, including many in Congress, the White House and nearly all Federal agencies,” said Grid’s chief revenue officer Brad Bosserman. “These new hires are one part of a broader investment in growing our reach and engagement into these communities.”

Grid had around 2 million unique visitors in June, according to Comscore data. Political coverage is one of the site’s most-read categories, said Grid’s managing editor Kay Steiger — likely due to a combination of the major Supreme Court decisions made this year, influential legislation that has been passed or halted and the fact that it’s a midterm year, she said. For example, Grid’s investigative team identified 78 QAnon candidates on primary ballots in 26 states in a story published earlier this year.

Steiger also said she believes interest in Grid’s political coverage is due to its editorial approach, in which stories are often written collaboratively by members of the newsroom, in a style that aims to put headlines into context by showing how they intersect with global affairs, health care and the economy — such as how the war in Ukraine is impacting gas prices in the U.S., and the role climate change has played in inflation. 

“That’s a great way to take what is often a very confusing topic and bring that back to people and make the connection to something that’s already important to them,” said Melissa Chowning, founder and CEO of audience development and marketing firm Twenty-First Digital. “You’re connecting the issue to the politics, to the elections and to the people who are making decisions, so that ideally people who have interests in [a topic like education] can vote with an educated mindset.”

Chowning said she is seeing a number of new political news organizations and products crop up, including State Affairs, which went live last August. In May, The Texas Tribune expanded its texting service (previously used to deliver updates during major events like power outages and COVID-19 surges) to provide information and answer questions about the 2022 primary runoffs and midterm elections process.

Grid wants to apply its editorial approach to more trending and daily news stories. Ray wrote a first-person account about getting the monkeypox vaccine and worked with Grid’s health and misinformation reporters to explain why other gay men might not get it, for example. 

Grid’s business is mostly driven by digital ads on its site and by newsletter sponsorships, Bosserman said. The company is also developing branded content and sponsored live events to run later this year. Grid’s advertisers include General Electric, Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Meta and Climate Power.

Grid also has plans to launch an “additional franchise” later this year, Bosserman said. While he said he was not ready to discuss what audience the initiative would target, Bosserman did say he believes it will have “a lot of potential to test out subscription products next year.”

People will pay for content that’s important to them, Chowning said. “The more you can make it a niche and really serve a need that isn’t being served, I think you will find consumers that are willing to support it,” she said.

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