Although the St. Pete Catalyst officially launched in January 2018, it’s likely that very few people knew at the time that the city had a brand-new information highway, a curated source of business and civic news laser-focused on the unprecedented changes that were taking place every day in this rapidly-growing metropolis.
Our first Daily Spark newsletter was sent out exactly four years ago, on March 15, 2018.
Happy birthday to us!
Today, more than 10,000 people subscribe to the Spark. The number is growing every day, and the daily visits to the Catalyst website are stratospheric.
“Our core strengths are focusing on local, staying positive and being a conduit for the best ideas,” says Founder and Publisher Joe Hamilton. “Those elements combined give us an earnestness that builds trust in the community. Technically we deliver news, but more so we coalesce and amplify our collective civic spirit.”
Hamilton co-founded the St. Petersburg Group to “to build innovative things in the city.” The Catalyst was conceived, as a part of SPG, to be a modern news platform, powered by community sourced content and augmented with directed coverage.
The goal, Hamilton says simply, is to “be creative and solve problems in a way that benefits as many people as possible.”
To that end, placemaking St. Pete is an important part of the Catalyst mission. Hamilton explains. “I see brand value as one of the highest forms of value, because it elevates everyone. You can have a nice meal by the water, or you can have signature Tyson Grant cuisine at the Parkshore on trendy Beach Drive, overlooking historic banyan trees.
“Both are plates of food, but the latter delivers anticipation, appreciation and a story to tell. That’s good for the citizen, the restaurant, the district and the city. That logic works for so many aspects of our community – we are home to endless bright lights, and I want the Catalyst to be a prism to shine them through.”
The Catalyst constantly adds new content from local sources. One of the most consistently-read segments of the Catalyst is the Community Voices column, in which members of the community share thoughts and ideas. We also regularly publish thoughtful comments which link back to the original article to inspire further interaction.
“We have a specific strategy behind doing that,” Hamilton explains. “Building the rails of communication, growing the value of putting content on those rails, and advocating for civic mindedness all drive a more connected, resilient and meaningful St Pete experience.”
Meet the team
Megan Holmes wrote some of the earliest stories. She was there at the beginning, as Hamilton planned his news organization and conceived and built the multi-menu Catalyst website.
I was brought in as a writer, too. I had written features and news, and had worked on arts coverage – performing and visual – for more than 35 years at that point, at several Florida newspapers.
Once the Daily Spark made its debut, we were off and running.
Former Tampa Bay Business Journal writer Margie Manning joined the team in September, 2018. A veteran business journalist, Margie raised the bar for the Catalyst. She covered finance, tech, real estate and all the other fast-moving aspects of the Tampa Bay business world. Megan, at the same time, wrote about city and county government.
I continued to interview movers, shakers and business leaders, but Margie’s presence gave me more time to write about my real passion, the arts. At the time – late 2018 into 2019 – it was becoming apparent that media coverage of the arts in Tampa Bay, truly an arts destination, had shrunk to an all-time low.
When Megan left to attend law school, Jaymi Butler and Brian Hartz came to work with us, albeit on a temporary basis.
Margie Manning’s retirement from journalism in May of 2021 left some big shoes to fill. Veronica Brezina, who’d also worked for the Business Journal (where she primarily covered economic development and transportation) joined the staff in June.
Her Catalyst beats are general business news, real estate and local startups, while Mark Parker, who came aboard not long afterwards, writes about city government, higher education and general business news.
A student at the University of South Florida – he’s a mass communications major with a focus on journalism and digital media – Parker previously contributed to the Crow’s Nest and the Weekly Challenger.
I am the news editor, working my way through everyone’s stories before they’re published. And I write, six days a week, about the arts.
Joe Hamilton contributes video and audio content – interviews, podcasts and deep dives into what makes Tampa Bay’s business heart beat. He is a tireless advocate, and spokesman, for innovation and exploration.
As a team, we’re small but mighty.
The St. Pete Catalyst is proud to be home to weekly columns by former Tampa Bay Times writer Waveney Ann Moore (every Friday), and Craig Pittman’s podcast Welcome to Florida (every Tuesday).
“The small Catalyst staff shares so many stories, but there are thousands more that go untold,” says Hamilton. “And so for me, the future is my next project, Metacity.”
Defined as a digital operating system for a physical city, “Metacity,” he says, “will provide the tools, incentives and distribution to bloom a whole new level of St Petersburg brilliance.”
We’d like to ask your help – please tell a friend about the St. Pete Catalyst! The website, and your subscription to the Daily Spark newsletter, are free.