What’s All This Racket About?

Former City Pages editors gear up for the launch of new website

Logo courtesy of Racket

Racket, a new source of journalism launching in the Twin Cities, starts with City Pages

After the Star Tribune shut down City Pages last October, several City Pages editors got together in the coming months to form something new. Em Cassel, Keith Harris, Jay Boller, and Jessica Armbruster worked together for over six months to create Racket. Cassel says the four of them and various freelance journalists will contribute to the new website.

Diverting from the free weekly alternative newspaper, Racket is going to be a subscription-based news website. It offers payment options that range from $50 to $1,000 a year, with each tier getting more benefits, such as commenting privileges and extra newsletters.

For those who do not have money to spare, Racket will also offer free email newsletters. There are currently four different newsletters to choose one—a daily Racket overview, local news stories, free weekend activities, and entertainment and events.

“[Racket] is a little bit subversive, it’s a little bit snarky, a little bit mean, but it definitely has a sense of enthusiasm in the writing,” Cassel says. 

When putting together the site, Harris says one of the big hurdles was figuring out how to make money.

“We basically did a website already and we know how this works, except for the making money part,” Harris says. “Why don’t we figure out how to make the money ourselves and cut out the billionaire?”

The billionaire Harris is referring to is Glen Taylor, the owner of the Star Tribune.

To learn more about the business side of journalism, the creators of Racket reached out to Defector. Defector is another media company started by a small group of reporters. After staff at Deadspin, a Chicago sports publication, were told to “stick to sports,” many left and created their own sports and culture website.

Boller reached out to the director of Defector in January to ask if Racket could work, Harris says. Defector gave them early guidance on the idea and advice for designing the website. Soon after, Racket started to come to life through branding and design.

“We know how to run a publication, we know how to do a really good job of the work that we do, but what we don’t necessarily know, or at least have a ton of experience in at this point, is running a business,” Cassel says.

She expects mistakes in the coming months, but notes that it will all be a part of the learning process.

When comparing Racket to City Pages, Cassel says the new site will have the fearlessness and fun spirit of City Pages, but with fewer stories. Since the team has shrunk to four people plus freelancers, it will be difficult for them to put out the same number of stories—although Cassel doesn’t necessarily see this as a disadvantage.

“This gives us a chance to set our own deadlines, to make our own editorial schedule, to go long on something instead of publishing three short quick hit stories that take no time,” she says. “I think it really lets us recalibrate what good journalism is.”

Cassel says she is excited that another freelance gig will be available in the Twin Cities, and she hopes Racket will help give people their first bylines.

Within a week of announcing Racket, Cassel put together a list of over 50 potential freelancers, and she keeps adding to the list. They’re still working out a freelance rate, Harris says, but notes they will strive to pay writers fairly. 

“It felt so just rewarding and so humbling to look at our subscriber count going up over the last week, and see how much people really believe in this and really want something like this to exist,” Cassel says.

Racket will launch on August 18. Readers can subscribe to the website or sign up to receive newsletters.