#MediaMonday – Terrance Thornton

If you’ve been doing PR in the Valley for a while, you are certainly familiar with the name Terrance Thornton.  He spent several years in reporting and editing positions with the Independent Newspapers before leaving to start Arizona Digital Free Press.

He was one of our Media Monday profiles back 2013 and we thought it would be nice to get an update from him.

Terrance, what made you decide to start your own online news outlet?

I fundamentally believe the internet and local news can work together, which I suppose is what I am trying to prove. After I lost my job, I thought this is my only chance to really make a mark on the world around me.

What are the challenges of running a news outlet and being responsible for all the content?

Honestly, the hardest thing by far has been the basic stuff: Getting the business banking account, scraping together enough money to get my basic concept online and securing liability insurance and a law firm of record.

The work of local journalism really is a joy for me and through this process I have realized that I am very much a journey person more than a destination person. Moments after turning on the first of my contemplated URLs I received a call from a former colleague, Jill Adair, who said, “I just want to help you.”

Now it is my Chief Copy Editor and I taking on the digital news world. The media business is based on the work of journalists and the internet is a giant filing cabinet that works every moment of every day to push the best content upward.

The barrier to the news business is gone and when linear programming evolves over the next 36 months, more and more journalists like me will do what we are doing at the Arizona Digital Free Press. The reason why people tune in, why they read, why they listen is for the content — not the brand.

Tell us a little more about Arizona Digital Free Press.

The vision of the Arizona Digital Free Press is simple: To forge a digital-only, sustainable news organization focused on expert reporting at City Hall, enterprise coverage of the business community — and help promote efforts trying to make the world a better place through FREE PRESS philanthropy.

The focus of this news organization is journalism, at the Arizona Digital Free Press we will not be advocates for issues, a purveyor of right or wrong but rather a company focused on seeking the truth no matter the outcome. The Digital Free Press reports the Local News That Matters.

The Mission Statement: A digital free press bound by three principles: equitable access to information, honesty in all dealings internal and external, and the regular generation of local journalism that matters. The Digital Free Press is an organization of journalists — for journalists — to serve the public well.

Why did you decide to focus on Scottsdale and Paradise Valley?

For all intents and purposes: that’s where the money is!

As tongue-and-cheek as the above comment may seem it is the stone-cold truth. I have learned that to launch a media company one must have a concept and market potential advertisers will see as valuable and or lucrative at the onset. It is critical.

However, my goal is to expand for beyond Scottsdale, the Town of Paradise Valley and Phoenix but as a good friend recently told me: “Prove concept first.” So, that’s what I am doing. I believe in the digital-dissemination model and my advertisers are starting to as well. I want to serve every community despite the socioeconomic demographics of the ZIP code — I believe it can be done.

From a personal perspective I have learned to love the people of the communities I have covered over the past decade or so. It is odd, but I often think of them as colleagues, and I have always been accused of being very source-driven when I do my reporting. For better or worse that is how I feel.

In addition, my daughter attended two schools’ part of the Scottsdale Unified School District — one in Scottsdale and the other in the Town of Paradise Valley, which further cemented how I feel about the community.

Early on in my daughter’s education, she struggled and SUSD educators developed an education plan to help my daughter learn and thrive in her environment. It was a years-long endeavor across two campuses, and I credit the teachers and counselors of Scottsdale Schools at helping my daughter how I could not. I suppose that mattered to me.

Do you accept content from other parts of the Valley, the state?

You bet. If it is local to Arizona and relevant, we will run it following a bit of evaluation and editing of course.

Any plans to expand into other markets?

Yes. I contemplate the Digital Free Press as a national model with five separate URLs anticipated to unfold over the next four years. Well, if I can develop the franchise model I have contemplated.

How about if we focus on you for just a bit. What influenced you to become a journalist?

I have had four personal passions in my life: Baseball, Skateboarding, Aviation and Writing.

The journalism business is the only thing that has kept my attention this long especially as computers have become so relevant. I grew up with early model Apple computers and used to think to myself how cool it would be to just be able to work at one place but impact the world. It dawned on me just recently when I was very young, I would create files and file them like I do now.

What are some of your favorite local hangouts? 

I have been accused of being a homebody by those who know me best. But if I have lunch with someone it is usually at:

Capital Grille (north Scottsdale)

For the past decade: every Tuesday, my softball brothers and I, do battle at the Victory Lane Sports Park.

 What were some of the most books you read?  What’s next on the reading list?

Fairy Tale by Stephen King
Inherit the Stars by James P. Hogan
Napoleon by Andrew Roberts
33 Strategies of War by Robert Greene

The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton
Public Opinion by Walter Lippmann

In process:

Infinite by Jeremy Robinson
Falling T.J. Newman
The Power Broker by Robert A. Caro

What’s the best way to reach you?


Photo by Arianna Grainey
Written by
at Apr 10, 2023

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