Reflections of a Newsosaur: ‘Community news sites are not a business yet’

After a summer break, SunapeeNews.com returns and shares some info about community news reporting.

“Community news sites are not a business yet” is one of the findings of a Knight Foundation sponsored report. “Although Jan Schaffer just produced a masterful analysis of how to run a grassroots news site, she came up dry on the crucial question of how to turn those journalistic labors of love into sustainable businesses,” according to Reflections of a Newsosaur.

“In a must-read assessment of the Knight-Foundation-backed program [New Voices], Shaffer said a third of the ventures already have called it quits and that the remainder endure in large part because the founders are working for little or no pay.”

However, impressive all-volunteer community sites exist. For example, in Deerfield, NH, The Forum has 350 contributors and posts 50 articles a week. Readers say they are “better educated” than regular newspaper readers about their state and local government. Schaffer highlights the Deerfield Forum under the title: Profiles in Sustainability.

Want to learn more? Read Schaffer’s report New Voices: What Works. Visit Deerfield’s The Forum.

Knight News Challenge: You invent it. We fund it.

A reader alerted Sunapee News to the 2010 Knight News Challenge. It’s open to community-minded innovators worldwide.

“You invent it. We fund it!”

That’s the slogan for the 2010 Knight News Challenge, a contest awarding as much as $5 million for innovative ideas using digital experiments to transform community news. The deadline for applications is Oct. 15. The contest is part of the Knight Foundation’s $100 million plus Media Innovation Initiative, which strives to help meet community information needs by, in part, seeding experiments that the market will ultimately sustain.

Do you have a big idea for informing and inspiring a geographic community? Does it include innovative use of new digital tools or processes such as social media, mash-ups or wikis? How about new ways to exchange information via hand-held devices like cell phones? Knight Foundation wants to know.

The contest has just three rules. Projects must use digital, open-source technology, distribute news in the public interest and be tested in a local community.

“We want entries to push the bounds of the imagination,” said Gary Kebbel, Knight Foundation’s journalism program director. “But they don’t always have to involve the invention of something completely new. We’re also searching for innovative twists on familiar tools.”

Want an insider’s edge to the application process? The newly launched News Challenge blog features lessons from past winners and a behind-the-scenes looks at the contest judging. Also, Knight staff will answer questions during a live chat at 2 p.m. on Oct. 8. Read the blog and participate in the chat at www.newschallenge.org.

For more on Knight Foundation’s Media Innovation Initiative, visit www.mediainnovation.org.

Valley News “Deepens Commitment” to Claremont. Plans Public Meeting.

Readers of the Valley News have recently seen more articles coming out of the Claremont area, and for good reason. Yesterday, the newspaper announced they’re expanding coverage in the region and will also be holding a public forum to get ideas from residents on Thursday, July 30. at 6 p.m. at the Claremont Savings Bank, 145 Broad Street.

Today’s Valley News has an interview with Harvey Hill, owner of Eagle Publications, which July 10 shut down the presses and left Claremont reeling and without a newspaper.

The Sunday VNews, indeed, demonstrates expanded reporting with articles out of Newport, “RDS Machine Moves to New Plant,” and “At-Risk Student Blooms in Greenhouse Job,” and a Charlestown piece, “Aspiring Eagle Scout Learns About Region’s Bats.”

Based in Lebanon, the Valley News has for years included Claremont and surrounding communities in its daily news coverage of the Upper Connecticut River Valley region of New Hampshire and Vermont. But with a surge in new readers following the Eagle’s demise and repeated requests from the city for coverage, Travis said, the newspaper decided to deepen its commitment.

“In the past two weeks, we’ve heard the same thing hundreds of times over from former Eagle readers,” Travis said. “They want daily local news coverage, and we’re going to deliver it.” – Valley News, July 25, 2009. (See full story.)

Opportunity Arises From Death of Eagle

“There’s a business opportunity in Claremont for a weekly newspaper coupled with a good bloggy local web site. One quick-minded entrepreneur, Nancy Zullo Brown, is rounding up ex-employees and others interested in at least launching an online venture,” writes Martin Langeveld, and published by Nieman Journalism Lab. It looks like the death of the Eagle Times is giving opportunity to a new on-line publication.

According to Langeveld, Brown is a “veteran of online publishing, with a family of sites focused on local information for military personnel called YourMilitary.com. Brown’s site will be called YourClaremontPress.com; she aims to have it in operation by Wednesday, and it may branch into a printed version as well.” Read more…

A year ago, publisher Harvey Hill abruptly stopped publishing the the Argus Champion, the local weekly that covered the Newport-Sunapee, NH area. Last week, the big news was about the death of the Eagle Times, another Hill publication.

“There are a lot of quality people working at the Eagle and they didn’t deserve the hand dealt to them in such tough economic times,” a veteran reporter of the Claremont-Newport area said in an email to SunapeeNews.com. “With a little hard work and determination I believe the Argus could have not only survived, but thrived.” With a change in management practices, “the same can be said of the Eagle,” he added.

Can small local newspapers survive? “Papers with less than 15k circulation reported that they were able to lift revenues despite a slump in advertising that started in 2006 and has accelerated every quarter since,” according to  veteran journalist Alan Mutter in his Newsosaur blog . Read more…

SunapeeNews.com welcomes your comments and interest in bringing back news coverage to the Newport-Sunapee area. Comment below or email Catherine at SunapeeNews@gmail.com

Disclosure: The author of this article was a Sunapee community columnist for the Argus Champion in 2005-2006.

Eagle Publications Files for Bankcruptcy

It was about a year ago, publisher Harvey Hill abruptly stopped publishing the local weekly, the Argus Champion. Now, according to various press reports, Hill announced to employees yesterday that his Eagle Publications will file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy today, and the Eagle Times that serves the Claremont area will cease operating as of today, as well. Other Eagle Publications affected are the Connecticut Valley Spectator,  The Message in the Ludlow, VT area and The Weekly Flea.

“I am not surprised that the Eagle Times closed only at how suddenly the paper closed,” a former Eagle Publication employee told SunapeeNews.com. “I never thought that any of the Eagle Publications papers made money on a regular basis, but you always hoped that the papers would pull through…There is now a news void in the area which is not good, but it is also an opportunity for someone to step in and fill that void.”

For background information and comments from Claremont and state officials, read today’s Union Leader article.

NECN’s report on the bankruptcy includes the reaction of employees.

“My Brave Boys” NH History Talk in New London Feb. 12

Authors and editors Mike Pride and Mark Travis will present an evening program sponsored by the New London Historical Society on February 12. It is titled: My Brave Boys: The 5th New Hampshire Volunteers.

Pride and Travis, former editors at the Concord Monitor, authored My Brave Boys, To War with Colonel Cross and the Fighting Fifth.

The program will be held at the NL Historical Society Meetinghouse at 179 Little Sunapee Road (also called Route 114), New London. Time: 7 p.m. Admission: $4 for NLHS members, $6 for non-members.

A lost New Hampshire story comes to life……Two thousand regiments fought in Union armies during the Civil War. None — not one — suffered more deaths in battle than the Fifth New Hampshire Volunteers. At the center of this regiment’s searing experience is Colonel Edward Cross, a journalist and adventurer who infused the Fifth with his formidable personality. Concord Monitor editors Mike Pride and Mark Travis spent eight years digging for the story of Cross and his men in letters, diaries, memoirs, official records, and newspaper accounts. The result is a military history unfolded in human terms, as the men themselves experienced it. – University Press of New England

The program is part of Partners Around Lake Sunapee (PALS), a collaborative effort  of six area organizations to showcase the  resources and history of the Lake Sunapee Region. In 2009, PALS will focus on culture, art, education and history in a year-long series of events that have a common theme: Then and Now Around Lake Sunapee.

Participating groups are: The Fells, Lake Sunapee Protective Association, New London Barn Playhouse and the historical societies in Newbury, New London and Sunapee.

SooNipi Country is Now on the Worldwide Web

Did you know the SooNipi is now on the web?

Click on the image below to find recent articles, images and old postcards.

Local historian Ron Garceau, Sunapee, is the publisher.

soonipiwebsite

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