Posts about nj

Cover Sandy recovery and get money

Hey Jersey journalists: There’s a big opportunity in New Jersey to cover the Hurricane Sandy recovery and get support from a group of foundations to get started and build a media business.

My personal wish for this money is that some smart journalist sees the chance to cover a huge story, bringing accountability to this effort (in a state that always needs accountability!) and starting a new service that can live and serve the shore community for many years after it is rebuilt.

The New Jersey Recovery fund has an RFP up now (full PDF here, HTML here). The money comes from the Community Foundation of New Jersey, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, the Knight Foundation, and others.

When I first discussed this funding opportunity with Knight’s Eric Newton, he told me a great story of a newspaper that sprouted up in the Oakland Hills (Newton was managing editor of the Oakland Tribune) to serve just 5,000 families disrupted by a huge fire in the 1990s. He said it lasted a year and a half and was even profitable.

I think that’s a great model for what could happen in New Jersey but now online. Imagine starting a site to cover the recovery at the shore … and then imagine having a brand and audience to carry on to build into a robust and ongoing hyperlocal business. Hell, if I weren’t busy, I’d do it.

Whether you like my idea or not, there is a great opportunity to bring journalism to the Sandy recovery — to start a local site, to watch how money is spent, to help communities and governments do a better job of communicating in the next (God help us) disaster, and so on. Have at it. The deadlines are nigh.

I also argue that New Jersey is a spectacular laboratory for building new futures for news. There’s an opportunity to work collaboratively with entities from to NJ Spotlight to Pro Publica to the New Jersey News Commons, which has started out of Montclair State to help grow and improve the state’s news ecosystem with training, promotion, collaboration, and other services. New Jersey needs more journalism. The journalists who take up the opportunity will get more help. Have at it!

Disclosures: I work with and helped start it. I helped start the NJ News Commons working with MSU. I also advise Dodge. And I live in New Jersey. I care.

Big news in Hyperlocaland

Debbie Galant, co-founder of Baristanet and the Queen of Hyperlocal, is moving to a new gig at Montclair State University, where she will share her experience and help nurture and grow the local news ecosystem of New Jersey. In short, she will spread her hyperlocal fairy dust over the Garden State. Baristanet continues under the strong and loyal local leadership of Liz George, who has been there almost from the start. The queen has left the building. Long live the queens.

I am personally delighted that Debbie is helping to spearhead this effort. I’ve been helping MSU and the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation on the project since the foundation’s head (and my neighbor), Chris Daggett, and a group of other funders called a meeting of public and private media people, bloggers, funders, and other concerned parties two years ago in Newark to address the crisis in the state’s media. At that meeting, it was Debbie who suggested the structure of a co-op to serve the independent members of the state’s media ecosystem. It is fitting that she will now be working to build it.

What exactly this venture will do will take shape after Debbie embarks on what she calls a listening tour, talking to the members of the media ecosystem to see what they need and listening to others to see what it would take to make it grow and improve. Opportunities could include training (in media, journalism, and business); sharing content; collaborative projects; and services (technology? insurance?). What else?

MSU is a wonderful home for this effort. The university is starting a School of Communication and Media. Under President Susan Cole, working with Matthew Frankel and Jack Shannon there, MSU has already invited in NJTV to base its operations at the school. WNYC’s New Jersey arm, NJ Public Radio, will work out of there, as will other media organizations. As all these newsies — and students and faculty — work under one roof, it’s hoped that collaboration will blossom and New Jersey will benefit.

I see New Jersey as a magnificent opportunity to rethink and rebuild local news. I like to think of it as a blank slate: a huge and underserved market that can finally get the media it deserves. The Dodge Foundation, MSU, and WNYC have raised some funds for their endeavors. There’s more to be raised and much to be done. This is just the beginning.

I remember Baristanet’s beginning as one model for what can be done to improve news locally. More than eight years ago, when I still ran, I held a meetup in a New Jersey coffeehouse to try to get folks to blog about their towns on our service. Debbie Galant, who’d been writing about blogs before she wrote them, was there. She thought blogging about a town was a great idea. “But why would I do it for you, Jeff?” she said. She was, as usual, right. So she started her own, Baristanet.

That blog has been an amazing success, covering Montclair and Maplewood with a strong local voice (and having fun while they’re at it) while innovating ways to serve local advertisers and earning enough to support the endeavor. Success became Baristanet’s burden as many others jumped in to compete in its not-at-all-metaphorical backyard: Aol’s Patch, for a time The New York Times’ The Local, not to mention the long-established weekly paper. Meanwhile, too many towns in New Jersey are still starved for coverage. Feast/famine. Now, I hope, Debbie can help spread the wealth to other towns and help others (like my entrepreneurial graduate, founder of ElizabethInsideout).

Success became a burden in another sense as many came knocking at Baristanet’s door for advice. I was frequently among them, asking Debbie to come speak to students and join conferences and help with the research we have done at CUNY on new business models for local news. Debbie would sigh because she was plenty busy serving Baristanet. But she was also plenty generous, always bringing her knowledge and experience to help others. Now that will be her job. Perfect.

I know that hyperlocal is a challenging model. There are questions about whether it scales (that’s the suspense of Patch). We need to do much more work on how to best serve local advertisers in effective and profitable ways (that’s our next wave of research at CUNY; more on that later this week). There’s no one more realistic about the challenges and opportunities than Debbie. So I salute her on her new endeavor. God’s work.

(Disclosures are in order: I worked for the parent company of for almost a dozen years and I’m back now helping with its development. In the past, I was listed as an adviser to Patch, but that has always been informal. And I have a vested interest in improving New Jersey media. I live there.)

Birthin’ Barista’s babe

I’m proud to say that this is one of the outcomes of the Networked Journalism conference at CUNY last fall:

exploremontclair_headlineimage.jpgBaristanet and the Star-Ledger are joining to create a cobranded print guide to the Barista’s turf, Montclair, NJ, with content from both partners, Star-Ledger distribution, and shared effort on the advertising.

So a blogger and a newspaper are making business together. Bravo.

Debbie Galant announces the birth today:

Baristanet is again making news in the media world. This time, it’s our partnership with the Star Ledger (yes, the Star Ledger!) to create a print guide to Montclair. Last week, Baristanet founder Debbie Galant and Star Ledger editor in chief Jim Willse spoke about the partnership to a group of newspaper and web editors from all over the world.

The official matchmaker was new media evangelist Jeff Jarvis, who suggested the partnership during his Networked Media Summit in New York last October.

The co-branded 36-page “Explore Montclair” guide will have stories by Baristanet and the Ledger, and even a special Montclair crossword puzzle by Tony Orbach. It goes out to 70,000 readers on May 15. If you’re not a home subscriber, you’ll be able to pick it up at the Montclair Public Library and many other locations (more on that later.)

The ad reservation deadline is tomorrow. If you want to underwrite history, let us know right away.

I did suggest the partnership as I played Oprah during Q&A in a session at the conference. But Debbie and Jim Willse both rejected the idea of starting online. They came up with the idea of a print guide with Barista’s cool attitude and the Ledger’s stores of information.

I am delighted that they recognized their complementary assets and goals. Barista has its unique local knowledge and voice as well as its reputation in town and online (including with hyperlocal advertisers). The Ledger has the power of its infrastructure — printing, distribution, ad sales — and its reporters and archives as well as its brand and reputation. To compete would be silly and destructive. To cooperate, they can build something together they couldn’t build as well apart.

This is thinking like a network.

(Disclosures: I also sat in on their meetings. And I used to work for and still work with the Ledger’s parent company.)