A COUPLE OF THINGS that might give you a pretty good idea about Bold, a news website developed by Carrie Sheffield MPP 2010 and Bill Werkmeister MC/MPA 2010: It was launched on Winston Churchill’s birthday, and it wants to be the nice Vice.
The “Churchill’s birthday” part speaks to Sheffield’s and Werkmeister’s political orientation. Sheffield, a Washington-based journalist before coming to the Kennedy School, and Werkmeister, a serial entrepreneur with roots in Wall Street, both leaned right—though moderately, they insist—embracing a belief in the value of private-sector solutions to public problems.
The Vice part speaks to the fact that if journalism has a future, Sheffield says, it is based on a model similar to that of Vice, the successful digital media group: a hub-and-spoke in which one’s own branded content is at the core, while content partnerships with other media offer a way to reach larger audiences.
And “nice” because it’s important for news to offer less bile and more solutions, say Sheffield and Werkmeister, who met at the Kennedy School.
“That’s the future of journalism as technology eats all our jobs, and Google Ads takes away all our advertising and classified revenues,” says Sheffield, who was a Lewis Friedman and Frederick Lloyd Martin fellow at HKS. “The only way we’re going to survive as content creators is to work together and to grow and share our audiences together.”
The two launched the site in November 2015. Sheffield, who worked in finance after the Kennedy School but had previously worked at The Hill and Politico, brought the journalism experience. Werkmeister contributed an entrepreneurial and venture capital background that also provided media experience by way of ownership of a large Texas-based magazine.
They now want to grow Bold into a household brand, increasing their television presence through partnerships with other media, including Salon and Al Roker Media, and gaining exposure and credibility.
And although their initial vision was of a millennial media company with a conservative bent, it has evolved into a more consciously bipartisan voice, bringing left and right together in an ongoing dialogue: an antidote, Sheffield says, to the polarization that helped fan the bitter presidential election campaign.
“For me, it’s about making an impact,” Werkmeister says.