Selene San Felice might only be a few years into her career, but she has learned and seen quite a bit. One of the things she’s learned is that a newsletter is a great way for reporters to connect with and cover a community.
A native of Maryland, San Felice went to college in Tampa Bay and, as life would have it, she’s now working from her Maryland home for a new Axios newsletter based in Tampa Bay with her mentor, Ben Montgomery.
In the interim, she spent 3 1/2 years at the Capital Gazette, including the terrible day when her editor and four other colleagues were killed back in 2018.
“I started at the Capital as a general assignment reporter. I was a night shift person, which meant I ended at 9 p.m. I covered late meetings, I’d cover a vigil every now and then. But mostly I was doing a lot of features,” she says. “They’d have you do human interest features and I loved doing that. I fell in love with doing features.”
The horrible tragedy at the Capital Gazette and the looming sale to a hedge fund (which has since changed course) also underscored for San Felice the importance and power of local newspapers.
“I think that, especially working at a place like Axios, a national outlet where we’re going into local news, we want to make sure we’re having friendly competition but also lifting up local outlets,” she says. “If the Times has a great feature, I can point people to that. I learned that lesson at the Capital when I walked out of the newsroom that day and thought this is it, we’re going to be shut down, and we kept putting the paper out the day after and every day after that.”
She’s also learning the benefit of newsletters, something she would’ve laughed off a year or two ago.
“I didn’t take newsletters seriously,” San Felice says. “I have learned that it is incredibly hard to do a newsletter. It needs to be something that’s not overwhelming and people need to get their news. I think it’s a really awesome thing when I open my Axios newsletter in the morning, I’m more inclined to open it up because I’m going to get what I need in three minutes. It’s fast and I can move on with my day.”
She and Montgomery have also decided to let their own personalities shine through, including little notes at the bottom of each newsletter telling readers what they’re reading, or watching, or listening to, or cooking.
“You get to know us as journalists and people,” San Felice says. “I think that’s part of what the news is all about. It’s about having that good beat reporter you know you can depend on. The news should also be fun, as hard and difficult and overwhelming as it is, if you like us, you should be able to get to know us as well.”
It’s All Journalism host Michael O’Connell talks with Selene San Felice, a new reporter with Axios in Tampa Bay. She discusses her newfound respect for newsletters, the importance of local news and why her new outlet will help lift up what others might consider the competition.