In June, 2009, Gannett launched a group of hyper-local news sites collectively known as InJersey.com. The role of each site was to report the local news from New Jersey communities. Each InJersey site was staffed by (at least) one Gannett reporter and by volunteer bloggers.
As the number of covered communities grew, Gannett reporters assigned to individual sites sometimes had reporting/editing duties on more than one site. They did not live in the towns they were covering and their work loads increased.
While some sites got fairly respectable page hits (Freehold, New Jersey averaged about 65,000 page views a month) some of the others scored only a couple of thousand. This made it very difficult to generate advertising revenue.
Blogger participation fell off and Gannett staffers focused more on their print assignments. Pressed for time, they simply reposted their dead tree stories to the web sites. Finally it was time to turn out the lights…the party was over.
TucsonCitizen.com came on line at about the same time and with the same goal of local news coverage provided by bloggers. Some of our bloggers have trained journalism backgrounds and experience; those who don’t— my judgement call here—make a commendable effort in the direction of fact checking and journalistic ethics.
But we’re bloggers, and we’re volunteers, which means that we write only about what interests us, and only when the spirit moves us. Some of us discover that writing well, and regularly, is harder than we thought. Readers lose sight of some less regular writers, even though the subject matter of their posts is of real interest. They tend to be pushed aside, as we fight for the equivalent of above the fold presence for our stories on our home page This tends to skew the balance of TucsonCitizen.com, which would profit from greater editorial control.
But when all is said and done, I think our local coverage is pretty darn good.
I really urge everyone to read this story about the demise of InJersey.