Posts Tagged ‘hyperlocal’

New News event in Seattle

I am in Seattle today attending Day 1 of the Journalism That Matters event: “Re-Imagining News & Community in the Pacific Northwest,” which runs from today through Sunday.

Twitter hashtag: #jtmpnw, and I’m @jessdrkn.

This “un-conference” intends to explore new relationships between journalism and communities. This event is unlike traditional events or conferences with line-ups of experts telling attendess what they are doing — this is about attendees talking to each other.

I am hosting a table for my website on hyperlocal and community news start-ups,, and for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, of which I’m a director.

Seattle and the Northwest has become a hotbed of community/hyperlocal startup activity.  Some participants at this event are:

  • Seattle City Club
  • The B-Town Blog (from Burien)
  • The Salish Sea Network
  • The Tyee
  • West Seattle Blog
  • Xconomy
  • YES! Magazine

Other event attendees setting up their tables alonside me in the commons area are:

  • Asian American Journalists Association
  • Cascadia Times
  • Common Language Project
  • Countywide Community Forums
  • Department of Commnications, University of Washington
  • Instivate
  • Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in Democracy
  • KUOW Public Insight Network
  • LocalHealthGuide/Seattle
  • Master of Communication in Digital Media, U of W
  • Media Island International
  • Natural Oregon
  • News 21
  • Pedro De Valdivia — an artist who uses trash or discarded items for his Modern-Ecoism work
  • Reclaim the Media
  • Seattle Times
  • Sustainable Seattle
  • Washington Coalition for Open Government
  • Washington News Council

Jessica Durkin is the founder of, a site that tracks independent community, local and regional news start-ups. She is interested in entrepreneurial journalism and the new paradigm. She is the mid-atlantic director (Region 3) of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.

New news sites to learn from

Entrepreneurial journalism has taken off at a rapid clip, or so it seems — all the evidence thus far is anecdotal. Grants are assisting non-profit start-ups, self-funded endeavors are staying in the game, and colleges and universities with journalism programs have turned their attention to a new news curriculum.

Six months ago I started tracking new news sites that focus on independent news creation. I founded, to monitor activity “beyond legacy media.”

I have 50 start-ups listed on my site so far and here is a selection of stand-outs. Some were started this year. I chose them for their uniqueness, consistency,  efficacy, and overall commitment to entrepreneurial journalism for the public interest.

Metropolis: Philadelphia-based news and opinion site. Launched in November. Edited and mostly run by a veteran news reporter, who last worked at the Philadelphia Inquirer. Metropolis, like other start-ups, relies on contributors. Although it is in its early stages, it is ambitious in its coverage. Opinion columns by the editor draw on deep knowledge and nuance of the city. Good community forum space.

Rust Wire: This regional endeavor focuses on the revitalization and rebirth of America’s Rust Belt — that area of the midwest and northeast from Michigan to Western New York. The site’s co-founders, both former reporters in Ohio, are passionate and knowledgeable about Rust Belt issues.

The Eastsider LA: Former Los Angeles Times reporter Jesus Sanchez started The EastSider LA to observe his own neighborhood, a steadily gentrifying area of Los Angeles. His site is a good example of solid neighborhood news reporting, especially in the shadow of LA Times downsizing and reduced coverage of the city. Jesus brings the nuts-and-bolts information residents need and want.

Woodstock CT Cafe: A great example of what a community can do with information, given an open forum and a desire for debate. This site has been around several years and serves seven small towns in “The Quiet Corner” (as it is known) of Northeast Connecticut. Anyone can post to the site, which is moderated with an seemingly invisible hand. Discussion usually centers around the school district that serves the towns. There is always pre- and post-local election forums. This popular site has to be included in this list, for taking a creative approach to funding the news., which has been written about extensively in traditional media, works on a crowdfunding model, where the general public is asked to subsidize stories through individual donations.

The Digitel: A testament to the link economy. This Charleston, South Carolina site rounds up information from regional or national outlets, then picks the newsiest bits and links to them. They also have some original content. Lots of sections, lots of content. They put the human element in aggregation.

Philadelphia Neighborhoods and Intersections: The South Los Angeles Report: Two examples of university journalism programs working in new media. These sites are hyperlocal projects run by journalism programs at Temple University (Philadelphia Neighborhoods) and the University of Southern California (Intersections).


Red Bank Green, one of many sites covering news and entertainment for a section of New Jersey. The site recently scooped traditional media on a story about Bruce Springsteen fans purchasing the house where Springsteen wrote “Born to Run.” (disclosure: I am acquainted with a reporter there)

Alamo City Times: This site provides a place for topics of discussion and activity around San Antonio, Texas. The site, which is primarily in English but features a section in Spanish, keeps its community engaged through a space for highly visible user-generated content. (disclosure: site founder Patricio Espinoza sits on the board of directors of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists with me)

Baltimore Brew: A site plugging along, covering basic community events, news and happenings around Baltimore, Maryland.

This list reflects general community news missions. There are many more start-ups worth noting, but they belong in a different category. The recent past has seen large-scale, non-profit start-ups such as the Texas Tribune, MinnPost, Voice of San Diego, St. Louis Beacon, and Crosscut. Those are all in a different league. Their news scope is state-wide or multi-state, their budgets and staffs larger than community news start-ups.

And check out Chris Wink’s roundup and evaluation of 24 hyperlocal sites he lists on his technology news blog Technically Philly.

SPJ Digital Media Committee member Jessica Durkin continues to track community or other independent, online news startups at Jessica is based in Scranton, PA and is the Region 3 director for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. She’s usually Twittering about hyperlocal and entrepreneurial journalism @jessdrkn.

Busy week in new media (hint: it’s niche and local)

The week in new media for this blogger started in Philadelphia on Saturday, Nov. 7,  and ended Thursday, Nov. 12 in Richmond, VA.

The days in between took me to Washington, D.C. and all the cities were quite the haul (24 road hours) from Scranton, PA, where I live. The trek was worth it, especially given the priceless networking and exposure to Journalism 2.0 projects and pioneers. And yes, for some of us who keep up with new media reporting and entrepreneurial journalism, there were some familiar names in the crowd.

Here is a quick recap:


I liveblogged PhIJI: Philadelphia Initiative for Journalism Innovation, hosted by Temple University’s journalism progam faculty. The school chose panelists from local start-ups of both print and online publications, marketing executives, venture capitalists, and a faculty member from the business school.

Note: One of the organizer’s told me after the event that staff from traditional media were invited. None showed.

In the breakout session, “Multimedia websites,” reprsentatives from,, Berks Community Television (BCTV) and MiNDTV discussed their business models and stages of development. BCTV, a public station, recently received funding to develop a news site and are recruiting citizen journalists. representatives talked about catering to an upscale bedroom community.

In “The Start-up Mindset” session, Gabriel Weinberg talked about his search engine that he said filters a lot of unwanted junk in search returns, while Neil Harner discussed marketing his new magazine Philly Beer Scene, a publication about craft beers that is catching on with bartenders, drinks reviewers and beverage distributors.

Venture capitalist/angel investor reps were from DreamItVentures and RSM McGladfrey/CFO Alliance. Marketers and branders included staff from Seek Up Group, Brown Partners, RadioOne, and book author Gloria Blakely.

Amy Webb, a new media consultancy firm Webbmedia Group, ended the day with her keynote address that introduced the crowd of mostly journalism students to Journalism 3.0 (and beyond!) web applications and “lifestreaming” trends. Her keynote material is here — there’s a ton of useful links. Also, some of this stuff is really advanced. What do you think about their applications for journalism?



More than 50 people attended J-Lab’s 2009 New Media Women Entrepreneurs summit that assembled a day’s line-up of hyperlocal and community journalism pioneers. Some were operating with the help of donations and non-profit grants from J-Lab, others were commercial. All the sites, it’s editors and founders said, involved a lot of sweat equity.

Greg Linch, from Publish2, did a bang-up job collecting tweets, and here’s detailed coverage from a Knight Digital Media Center rep.

Panelist topics ranged from training citizen journos (difficult, and turnover is high) to staying organized using Google apps and  finding revenue by hosting regional conferences.

Some speaker highlights: co-founder Tracy Record talked about the “turning moment” for her community blog — when it morphed from a general neighborhood interest site to breaking news during a windstorm that shut down part of West Seattle. She was “self-drafted” by residents to find out what was going on. Record, a traditional news veteran, says she tries to post 12 stories a day.

At, Susan Mernit said she is focusing on news and projects generated by area non-profits, groups which are usually underserved in traditional media. The site also reflects the large activist community in Oakland.

The Forum founder Maureen Mann started her site in an underserved media corner in New Hampshire. She said since the site began in 2005, legacy media outlets have begun paying more attention to the area. She also noticed more civic engagement: When she started, there were only two seats were contested for 22 positions in which there were only 14 candidates. was begun in 2007 by two parents who were regular school board meeting attendees. They, Susie Pender and Christine Yeres, wanted more information about a school construction project. Now they cover four town hall or school board meetings a week. editor Cathy DeShano said she has had mixed results training citizen journalists. She said anyone who wants to contribute to the site must complete training, but many abandon the effort and lose their nerve to write when they see publishing standards. She said they get a lot of people in their 20s and 60s. Turnover is high.

Teresa Puente, a communications faculty at Columbia College in Chicago, is starting to generate news and information about women in the Latino community.

A full list of names and site links to the 12 presenters is here.

THURSDAY: Richmond, VA


At the Virginia Press Association workshop, in collaboration with the Online News Association, newspaper people from some of Virginia’s major dailies were briefed on social media, online publication laws and the “micropersonal vs. microlocal” news movement, plus tips on mining online data, paid content, and social networking in political coverage.

The VPA has begun collecting blog coverage from the afternoon.

Ken Sands, a digital media consultant from DC., plugged the Twitter feed The Twitter Times and urged editors and reporters to find block-level data, do smart aggregation and tap neighborhood bloggers or contributors.

And Ryan Sholin,  Publish2’s director of news innovation, listed Five Ways to Put Social Media to Work in Your Newsroom. And he posted his slide presentation in PDF form on the Web.

ALSO THURSDAY: I couldn’t attend this, but I would have liked to: Jeff Jarvis’ HyperCamp on New Business Models for News.

Digital Media Committee member Jessica Durkin is the founder of, where she tracks community news start-ups. She is the Region 3 director for the National Association of Hispanic Jounalists, and just joined Journalism That Matters. She is @jessdrkn on Twitter. founder: “I’ve always had a deep interest in my community”

TheEastsiderLAA Net Worked Q&A with Jesus Sanchez, founder and editor of, an online community news site covering several neighborhoods in the northeast and northwest section of Los Angeles. Mr. Sanchez is a former Los Angeles Times reporter and started TheEastsiderLA in July 2008 after he was laid off from the Times. He lives in Echo Park, one of the communities he covers.

 Net Worked: What is the scope of your news blog — can you describe in miles, the geographic area you cover, or population, other demographics?

Jesus Sanchez: I don’t have specific numbers or stats. But my coverage area includes the neighborhoods northwest and northeast of downtown Los Angeles. The neighborhoods range from low income and primarily Latino to some upper middle class areas with a mix of ethnic and racial groups.

 What is your digital platform/publishing software?

Google’s Blogger. Blogger is not as sophisticated and does not offer as many options as some other blogging platforms. But it’s so easy to use, practically free and integrates well with the other Google services – such as gmail, Google Docs, Google Analytics – that I use. I also wanted a system that I could be able to update and change on my own and also took care of web hosting.

I looked into hiring a designer to create a more sophisticated look and system (which would cost at least several hundred dollars) but then I realized I would also have to pay them anytime I had a problem or needed to update. I have been able to customize some of the standard Blogger templates by checking some other sites and using Google’s Help Group. I’ve actually enjoyed seeing how far I can take these free online services.

Describe your workday with How many hours do you put in, how many days a week?

I usually devote my mornings to the blog. I get started by reviewing email alerts, RSS feeds and other sites for news, photos and items that go into a daily News & Notes post. I then try and write one or two posts for that day or the following day. I will try and hit perhaps one or two community meetings a week. 

Do you work out of your home?

Yes. Out of a home office/guest room.

Are you able to pay yourself? I see there is some advertising, but is it enough to allow you to do this full-time, without outside financial help?

Not much money is coming in now. I’ve displayed some ads through a Google service but they often earn less than a $ 1 day given my traffic. I’m also displaying some free ads for local merchants so I can learn about ad delivery systems, sizes, prices, etc. So, at this point, my blog is more of a hobby and calling card than a business.

What are your costs or what is your budget for TheEastsiderLA?

I pay $10 a year to Blogger for the domain name. My biggest expense is probably on notebooks and pens. I have probably spent $20 on notebooks and pens. I also spent about $20 for some business cards.What goals do you have for your enterprise? Are there certain audience targets you hope to meet, such as unique visitor counts?

My goal has been to earn at least what might be a part time income. My plan has been to look more closely at ads once I started attracting 1,000 unique visitors a day. I think that was a number that might attract local merchants. I’ve been hitting the 1,000 number for the past month or two. That’s good but it still falls far short of some of the more established community news blogs. It’s also only a fraction of the people who live in the area I cover.

What are among the most popular features of your news site? What generates the most comments?

Crime, real estate, shopping and urban culture.

Do you have contributors or do you do any crowdsourcing for stories?

I just started collaborating with another writer, Ana Facio Contreras, on a regular basis and have on occasion taken submissions from readers. I’ve used comments on Twitter and Facebook to help report stories.

How active are news tips?

Not as active as I would like. I might get three to five a week.

What equipment do you rely on in your day-to-day operations? Did you have any learning curve with it after leaving your full-time newspaper job?

I’ve got my HP Pavillion dv6000 laptop, a Blackberry cellphone (great photos), a Canon Power Shot camera and a Sony digital recorder. I’ve been trying to learn how to take better pictures, especially portraits. I would like to learn how to shoot video at some point. In all cases, I need to make sure the equipment is easy to use because I don’t have much time to learn.

Why did you start TheEastsiderLA?

I started it after being laid off at the LA Times. I wanted to promote my abilities as a journalist and keep up a daily reporting and writing skills. I’ve always had a deep interest in my community. So, I figured I would merge my interest in community and skills as a journalist.

I had worked at the Times for 22 years, primarily as a business reporter. I spent the last five years as a online reporter and blogger. In fact, I was part of the first team of Times newsroom reporters assigned to report and write for the web. Of course, working online doesn’t protect you from layoffs.

You mentioned in a previous conversation with me that it was a little disconcerting to start reporting stories on your own, instead of with your former employer, the Los Angeles Times, and running into former co-workers at a news event. Can you describe this scenario?

I’ve had it happen twice at press conferences. In both cases I don’t think the Times reporter even noticed I was there But I still felt self-conscious just the same. It’s something I have to get used to. I’ve also had several instances when the public information officer I’m dealing with is a former Times reporter. Much time is spent discussing life post-newspaper.

Speaking of the press in general, have you tried getting formal press credentials for your site? Do you have difficulty getting stories or access because you are not associated with a large media outlet?

I’ve asked the Los Angeles Police Department for press credentials but have not heard back. Still, it does not seem to have mattered much. I’ve been able to attend LAPD press conferences with no problem and the department PIOs have helped me get information on breaking crime news. The captains in charge of the local police divisions have replied to my request for interviews and I’ve been able to approach crime scenes with simply a business card.

I thought I would get ignored a lot requesting information from public agencies and private corporations. But I’ve been surprised by how many PIOs do respond to my inquiries even if it is just to say “no comment.” I think some agencies are just happy to get any coverage they can get, even it’s from a small community blog.

What are some of the bigger challenges you are facing as a digital news entrepreneur? For instance, is funding an issue? Or updating technical skills? Or generating content?

Funding and generating content are big challenges. I really don’t want to seek out partners because I’m not sure there will be enough income to split. I understand some bloggers are going the non-profit route but I feel that means you just create more work by trying to organize and run a nonprofit as well as running a news blog.

Coming up with original daily content that is a big challenge given my time constraints. As far as my technical skills, I’ve discovered that if I keep things fairly simple I don’t have to learn HTML or complicated graphics and web design programs. There are all these simple, web-based programs that allow for ways ways to edit and crop photos, for example, or create your own graphics. Perhaps the biggest challenge ahead is developing my business and marketing skills to try and make this is a viable business.

Where do you see online digital start-ups in five years?

Not sure.

Do you think this is a permanent fixture in news dissemination?

Yes, blogs, Twitter feeds, Facebook posts, community message groups will all play a role in distributing news.

What feedback have you had from readers? Can you share some comments, some suggestions from them?

I’m always taken when people say “thank you” for covering a simple crime story or other bit of news that has gone overlooked. I’ve also been accused by some folks as just being nosey. I am nosey but I think that goes with the territory.

 SPJ Digital Media Committee member Jessica Durkin conducted this interview with Jesus Sanchez for Net Worked. Jessica, a former daily newspaper reporter in Scranton, is tracking online community news start-ups at her site Jessica is also the Region 3, Mid-Atlantic director for the National Association of Hispanic Journalists.


Twitter Facebook Google Plus RSS Instagram Pinterest Pinterest LinkedIn

© Society of Professional Journalists. All rights reserved. Legal

Society of Professional Journalists
Eugene S. Pulliam National Journalism Center, 3909 N. Meridian St., Indianapolis, IN 46208
317/927-8000 | Fax: 317/920-4789 | Contact SPJ Headquarters | Employment Opportunities | Advertise with SPJ