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May 15, 2023

Jimmy Finkelstein start-up The Messenger launches with call for media impartiality

The Messenger aims to make $100m in revenue next year with up to 550 journalists.

By Charlotte Tobitt

Jimmy Finkelstein’s digital news start-up The Messenger launched on Monday morning with a poll showing backing from the American public for a more objective media in the vein of what it is hoping to achieve.

The new outlet went live with an interview with former US president Donald Trump, less than a week after his controversial CNN townhall, as its first homepage lead story.

The HarrisX poll, conducted with 938 registered US voters, saw more than 80% agree with the statement that “we need a new news medium dedicated to even-handed treatment of issues without political bias”.

Two-thirds of voters in the poll felt journalists “mostly practice advocacy rather than unbiased journalism”, according to The Messenger.

In addition, 61% said Trump “should be allowed on news media” and 62% said he should “be treated like any other politician”.

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The Messenger goes live with news and politics coverage

The website has launched with a focus on news, politics and opinion articles, with some entertainment, and an overall promise of “breaking news, original reporting, opinion, and video”. Its The Messenger Morning newsletter says it will round up the “biggest stories and exclusive reporting” each weekday.

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Editor Dan Wakeford, formerly editor of People magazine, said The Messenger would introduce verticals for business, technology, sports, health and wellness, purpose, travel, food, and style in the coming months.

Describing The Messenger’s vision, Wakeford said: “Readers demand impartial and objective news, and The Messenger is on a mission to deliver exactly that. People are exhausted with extreme politics and platforms that inflame the divisions in our country by slanting stories towards an audience’s bias. Our talented journalists are committed to demystifying the onslaught of misinformation and delivering impartial and objective news.”

Wakeford added: “Our hope is that The Messenger earns your trust and is welcomed into every home for many years to come.”

The Messenger has been founded by chairman and chief executive Jimmy Finkelstein, who has previously owned The Hill before its sale to Nexus Media in 2021, The Hollywood Reporter, Adweek, Billboard, and several legal publications.

He said in a statement on Monday: “We are building a scaled and diversified media company that will continue to grow month after month. Our goal is to restore trust by providing nonpartisan and balanced coverage on the issues that matter most to millions of people.”

The Messenger, financed with $50m in investor money, has said it will remain free-to-read and that it aims to generate more than $100m in revenue next year, largely through advertising and events. It also reportedly wants to reach more than 100 million monthly readers and plans to have around 550 journalists within a year, Finkelstein told the New York Times.

Jimmy Finkelstein who is launching The Messenger
Jimmy Finkelstein. Picture: Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Hollywood Reporter

In a statement, Wakeford said The Messenger has “built an all-star editorial team that will report the news factually and with the utmost integrity. Over the years the lines between news and opinion have become dangerously blurred and in separating the facts from our views, I believe that The Messenger will be a force for positive change.”

Alongside Wakeman, The Messenger’s initial senior editorial hires include former Time executive editor Ben Goldberger as deputy editor, former editorial director of The Athletic Dan Kaufman as sports editor, former Gizmodo editor-in-chief David M. Ewalt as technology and science editor, and former Self digital director Amy Eisinger as health and wellness editor.

The team also includes former Politico Pro editorial director Martin Kady as politics editor, former Entertainment Weekly editor-in-chief Mary Margaret as entertainment editor, former Reuters deputy editor for The Americas Ciro Scotti as business and finance editor, and former New York Post politics editor Neil Sloane as news editor.

The company’s president is Richard Beckman, who has previously worked in the same role at The Hill alongside Finkelstein, and as chief revenue officer at Vice Media between 2015 and 2016. Beckman said: “Our objective with The Messenger is to earn the trust of our audiences with our balanced news coverage and to inspire their passions with our evocative verticals. In a world where the consumer’s relationship with media companies has become commoditized and dispassionate, we want to inspire readers to fall in love with media again.”

In March The Messenger bought Washington DC-based digital news upstart Grid, whose website it has subsequently closed and whose Twitter account it has taken over – giving the newer brand 35,000 followers at launch. Grid staff were interviewed for jobs at The Messenger while other potential benefits of its deal included keeping hold of its newsletters and its back catalogue of content.

The Messenger comes hot on the heels of Semafor, another US digital news start-up that launched in October promising to provide audiences with “an unparalleled level of journalistic transparency through innovative new forms, cutting through the noise of the news cycle with smart, distilled views and exploring competing perspectives across borders for a curious, new global audience”.

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
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  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
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  • Senior Executive/SVP or Corporate VP or equivalent
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  • Head of Department/Function
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Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how New Statesman Media Group may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
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