Tom Stites

Tom is founder and president of the Banyan Project, which is pioneering a sustainable and easily replicable new model for community Web journalism that’s built on the sturdy and inherently equitable and inclusive base of consumer co-op ownership. Banyan’s mission is to help seed independent news co-ops in underserved communities across the nation and to support them with an array of services that are tailored to help them thrive and activate community engagement. Tom shaped Banyan’s distinctive model as a fellow of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

Tom is a seasoned editor and entrepreneur with a passion for strengthening journalism, democracy and justice. As an editor he has supervised reporting that has won an array of major journalism awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes. He broke in as an entrepreneur as the founding editor and publisher of Jazz Magazine; he has also been the founding publisher of another print magazine and three Web publications in addition to Banyan. His writings on strengthening journalism and democracy have been published by the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, at Harvard; Nieman Journalism Lab, at Harvard; the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy; Nonprofit Quarterly, and the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.  [See links to samples of articles and speeches, below.]

Positions Tom has held include national correspondent, national editor, and associate managing editor for project reporting at The Chicago Tribune; night national editor of The New York Times, and managing editor of The Kansas City Times. He later served for a decade as the editor and publisher of UU World, the national magazine of the Unitarian Universalist religious denomination, and he has served for 15 years as consulting editor for the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.  Perhaps most crucial to Tom’s Banyan leadership is his experience, when he was 21, as managing editor of a county seat weekly newspaper in rural Missouri.

Tom grew up in Kansas City and attended Williams College. He has taught in the Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Chicago and conducted seminars at several journalism schools. In 2006 he was a resident fellow at Harvard Divinity School, where he did research on power and the conscience. See Tom’s full resume. Contact him at

Selected Publications and Speeches

Building Civic Energy is the Goal, Not Saving Old News Business Models:  Would the effort to revive community-level journalism be working better if we changed the strategic focus to reviving robust civic energy? Speech to continuing learning audience at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, September, 2023. 

A New Business Model Emerges: Meet the Digital News Co-op:  This distinctive model holds out hope in communities where other models don’t thrive because it monetizes something they don’t — readers’ hope for their community; for Nonprofit Quarterly, March 2021.

2,100 U.S. Communities Have Totally Lost News Coverage:  Latest study of news deserts from UNC discovers that growth of community-level online news sites has come to a halt and that news deserts are spreading to affluent suburbs, for the Poynter Institute, June 2020.

News Deserts, Ominous to Democracy, Are Spreading Fast: 2018 research from UNC, for the Poynter Institute, June 2018.

Is Media Performance Democracy’s Critical Issue? Keynote address, Media Giraffe Conference on the future of journalism; sadly, this July 2006 speech remains deeply pertinent.

Might the New Web Journalism Model be Neither For-Profit nor Nonprofit? The concluding essay in series of three for Nieman Journalism Lab at Harvard, December 2011. No. 1: Taking Stock of the State of Web Journalism. No. 2: Layoffs and Cutbacks Lead to a New World of News Deserts.

Changing the Game for the Future of Journalism: Game-Changer Award acceptance speech, keynote for WeMedia Conference, University of Miami, March 2010.

How Corporate Personhood Threatens Democracy: Cover essay, UU World, May/June 2003.

Sitting Between the Extremes: Why a Journalist Writes Haiku: Essay, UU World, Fall 2007.




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The Banyan Project is built on the thinking and experience of 32 senior journalists, academics, Web developers, sociologists and researchers, business and financial strategists, and advocates for strengthening democracy brought together by Tom Stites. Members of this Board of Advisors are listed below; click on names to see bios.

Stites shaped Banyan's model as a fellow of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

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