Tom Stites

Tom is founder and president of the Banyan Project, which aims to strengthen democracy by pioneering a sustainable and easily replicable new model for Web journalism. Banyan’s mission is to help seed independent news co-ops in underserved communities across the nation and to provide them with educational, technical and administrative support so they can thrive and activate civic engagement.

Tom shaped Banyan’s distinctive co-op business model as a fellow of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard; he is now working with community leaders in Haverhill, Mass., to launch a pilot site. He also chairs the Banyan Project Inc. Board of Directors.

Tom is a seasoned editor and entrepreneur with a passion for strengthening journalism and democracy. As an editor he has supervised reporting that has won an array of major journalism awards including two Pulitzer Prizes; as an entrepreneur he has been the founding publisher of two print magazines and three Web publications in addition to Banyan. His writings and speeches on strengthening democracy and on journalism have won a respectful following.

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 remains a consulting editor for the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists.

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  

1,300 U.S. Communities Have Totally Lost News Coverage:  Final findings of UNC study also discovers ghost newspapers, online sites filling too little of the growing void, for the Poynter Institute, October 2018. 

News Deserts Are Spreading Fast: New research from UNC finds that coverage of at least 900 communities across the nation has gone dry since 2004, for the Poynter Institute, June 2018.

Is Media Performance Democracy’s Critical Issue? Keynote address, Media Giraffe Conference on the future of journalism; 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, WeMedia Conference, University of Miami, March 2010.

How Corporate Personhood Threatens Democracy: Cover essay, UU World, May/June 2003.
Selected Publications and Speeches—Other Topics

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



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The Banyan Project is a nonprofit organization founded from the thinking of 31 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. He is now helping a committee of community leaders who are organizing Haverhill Matters, the nation's first community Web news co-op in Haverhill, Massachusetts.

Read more about Banyan Project.

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