News Startups Guide

Mint Press News

A privately financed international news startup in Minnesota

March 28, 2012, MINNESOTA — The coming of Mint Press was noted all over the journalism jobs boards. Touting its independent status and dedication to honest reporting, the site seemed to advertise for a new position every day: staff reporters, California and D.C. correspondents, and associate editors. Many of these positions remain open. Mint Press currently claims five staff writers and three paid writing interns; an editor-in-training; two “contributors”; and a New York correspondent, Lisa Barron, a veteran journalist who spent fourteen months covering the Iraq war for CBS.

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    • Shortly after the site’s launch this January, fellow Minneapolis-based news organization MinnPost profiled Mnar Muhawesh, the site’s 25-year-old founder, executive director, and editor. The St. Cloud State broadcast journalism graduate worked in local television and as a freelancer, but says she soon realized she knew enough to put together her own team.

      While many relatively small-scale news startups focus on local reporting, Muhawesh–a born-and-raised Minnesotan, “as Minnesotan as you get,” she explains–had national and even international ambitions. The daughter of Palestinian immigrants, she grew up in a household that paid close attention to both national and international affairs, and wanted to contribute to the national conversation with a site that she hoped would help bring the outside world to the attention of American readers.

      “Our media has failed us very miserably,” Muhawesh says, citing uninformed public debates around issues like Iran’s nuclear capabilities or intervention in Syria. “We are in a crucial time in American history where most Americans don’t know what’s going on in the world around them.”

      The American public’s lack of interest in many international issues is perennial and oft-cited, but Muhawesh believes she can make headway with an analytic approach to geopolitical relationships, particularly between the United Sates and the Middle East, as well as a sustained commitment to following up on stories that would otherwise only get attention as breaking news.

      While she builds her staff, Muhawesh relies on AP pieces to fill out the site’s content. At times, the AP stories can comprise a majority of the articles on the homepage. The website is still missing bits and pieces-for example, the “Staff” page is blank-but the site’s editorial focus on policy and social justice issues is evident from the story selection. Opinion pieces on the state of federal spending, an AP story about the Alabama immigration law facing federal challenges, and a Mint Press article on the lack of media coverage of school violence in minority communities characterize a typical sampling. A noticeable amount of the site’s analysis leans on other outlets’ reporting and academic commentary, citing names like Noam Chomsky.

      Mint Press is incorporated as a for-profit, but does not currently employ any full-time business staff. Muhawesh’s father-in-law, Odeh Muhawesh, advises the site on business matters. Mr. Muhawesh, who has managed and sold several multimillion-dollar businesses and serves as CEO for education company Scorant, has valuable ties to the business community. As an adjunct professor at the University of St. Thomas, he also has links to the nonprofit world. Muhawesh says her father’s Minnesota business connections allowed her to raise her startup capital, which is currently covering all of Mint Press’s costs. She declines to name investors, saying that they choose to remain anonymous.

      Muhawesh says that her business plan calls for the site to become profitable in three years, and that revenues will be generated through advertising. She says aims to attract advertisers from the nonprofit world, schools, and foundations. The site has yet to run any advertisements.

      In the meantime, the site will continue its hiring spree. Muhawesh still hopes to hire a California correspondent, a D.C. correspondent, three additional staff writers, two more paid interns, and an associate editor. She says many reporters who feel like they’re finally fulfilling their journalistic goals with the site. “We are all having so much fun,” she says. “We’re all living the dream.”

Mint Press News Data

Name: Mint Press News


City: Minneapolis

Leah Binkovitz is a contributor to CJR.