Art Metzinger Goes 1-1 With Southside Light Publisher and CEO Matt Briscoe
Southside Light News
Matt Briscoe is the Publisher and CEO of The Southside Light, a hyperlocal newspaper based here in Corpus Christi that covers mainly the city’s growing south side neighborhoods. I recently sat down and talked with Briscoe about the Light, the community and what brought him here to Corpus Christi. Briscoe is candid in this interview and the usually very reserved newsman speaks openly about this newspaper and why he decided to start it. Here is that interview:
Metzinger: Matt, they say you are controversy driven and that you are attacking everything sacred in the community. What do you say to those people?
Briscoe: Art, we have known each other for some time now and I think you know me well enough to know that I don't particularly like controversy at all. What is controversial is not the topics that we cover or even the way that we cover them. What seems controversial is that we are finally to a point where people who hold a lot of control are being questioned and that is not something that they are used to having done to them. The metro here never did and TV just doesn’t have time—it’s not their purpose. Questioning these people and their motives is not wrong, it’s just not something that they are used to having done.
M: You’re often criticized about not going to the source of your newspaper’s stories. Why is that?
Briscoe: It is simple, Art. If you go to them then you’re opening the door that allows them to spin doctor it and control the narrative. One thing covering Austin politics has taught me is that if you let a politician or an activist control what information you have then you’re giving them too much control of your story and that isn’t good. We report from our own observations, public records, legally obtained documents and other sources of verifiable information. We oftentimes use minutes and agenda records to find out what we need to know. Then, we go to the people who were shut out and get their side of the story.
M: You mentioned Austin, did you like covering the Legislature?
Briscoe: Oh, absolutely I did. Think of it like this, Art—for 180 days every two years the biggest circus in the world happens in Austin. The best free entertainment on the planet happens under that dome—but it’s our big, free circus. Everything is bigger in Texas. But the personalities of the people who work there and the topics of debate really matter down here on the grassroots level and it impacts people’s lives almost immediately. I treasure my time reporting from that dome.
M: Any favorite people that you enjoyed working with?
Briscoe: I liked Joe Strauss. Really a straight shooter and not one to play games. Todd Hunter, genuinely nice man—calculated fighter. Senator Dawn Buckingham is the most wonderful, most decent person you’ll ever meet. There were plenty of great people under that dome.
M: You just named all republicans. Are you a republican?
Briscoe: I am probably a fiscal conservative and social liberal but I really don’t know how you would define me exactly. I am a registered republican, if that helps. (Laughs)
M: Let’s chat about the Southside Light. You have a staff ten and you have are still very selective about your content. Why not produce more content?
Briscoe: Content, Content, Content. That is the big myth of this business. It isn’t all about content. It is about depth and quality of content. Not everybody here writes stories. You and I do, but that’s not all that we do. Other people spend time researching stories, discreetly attending meetings, taking notes, talking to people quietly behind the scenes and really working hard to bet the good stories. It’s deeper than just content.
M: Matt, what drives you to do this?
Briscoe: Art, it’s about a belief that we can always do better. Do better as a media outlet, better as a community and better as a whole. So many of the conversations start right here in Corpus. The oil and gas discussion, economic development, global shipping, environmental issues, education—you name it, it happens here. We need to talk about it. And we need to to do more than just talk, there has been too much of that already.
M: You’re a Mormon. How does that play into your news product?
Briscoe: Well, you’re actually wrong. I and my family are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It’s something that we hold very dear and no, it does not influence my editorial judgement. But let me tell you, you does influence our integrity. Leaders of our church have counseled us to be “chaste, true, honest and just” in our dealings. Yes, that influences us but not our content.
M: But people often call you a fake and a liar. How do you defend that?
Briscoe: Look who is doing the name calling, it’s the people who are subject of our content and those who support them. Look, in today’s modern world, calling people “FAKE” news when you disagree and or are challenged is the best way to argue back—because you can’t argue with that. It really shows a weakness and if you can’t think of a better comeback then that means that we were right and you are on the ropes. Call me what you want, when I stand before the judgement bar of God, I will have a clear conscious that knows that we reported the facts as we found them.
M: Do you enjoy local news?
Briscoe: Having worked with BBC, CNN and several others I have come to appreciate local news because as a global field producer I saw what happens when local news goes unchecked— Mugabe, for one. One person and their group ends up with all of the power for a neighborhood, community or region and bad things happen. Progress becomes limited, opposing opinions never get heard and nothing ever moves forward. That is how communities suffer. We have a few little Robert Mugabe’s running around here and it’s time that somebody enables a reckoning between them and the community. And if you don’t know who Robert Mugabe is then look him up. (Laughs)
M: You mentioned your faith earlier. There are reminders everywhere in your home about Jesus, God, the church that you attend. Why?
Briscoe: I hold it very dear. My wife is the strongest person I know of and she has a plaque from her Women’s organization at church that says “we are about to do something extraordinary.” I love that. Sunday’s are a day where I generally get away from work and attend church for two hours. I spend it with my family and church friends. Our faithful missionaries who pay to come and serve for two years often join my family for meals. This church is more than a belief system or ideology—it’s a lifestyle. Everyday, I learn from Heavenly Father, His son, and our living apostles and prophets. It is the biggest thing that I cherish next to my family.
M: Flour Bluff. Do you hate Flour Bluff?
Briscoe: Of course not. My little guy goes to school there, we have family property there right off of Laguna Shores and we love that area. Whoever said we don’t love Flour Bluff is simply just misinformed. I just do not buy into being a “Bluff Rat.”
M: One more thing, are you going to run for political office?
Briscoe: You’re funny….