Ex-Newspaper Staffers Create Online News Sites
Thousands of out-of-work newspaper employees, laid off by unprecedented newspaper closures, have joined forces to create new online news sites. The latest iteration, www.newjerseynewsroom.com is a collaboration by several dozen former employees of Newark's Star-Ledger, who lost their jobs after a highly publicized struggle between the owner, Advance Publications, and newspaper unions last year.
Work on "New Jersey Newsroom" began in late January, led by Matt Romanoski and Garrett Morrison, both former Star-Ledger sports editors, and Andrew Lagomarsino, a veteran journalist who also left the paper. The trio recruited 37 other former staffers, including pros honored by Pulitzer and the New Jersey Press Association. Since the soft launch of its Web site two weeks ago, first noted by Editor & Publisher's Web site, New Jersey Newsroom has shown promising signs of growth, attracting about 10,000 page views a week with reporting that covers all of New Jersey.
The job is made easier by the geographic distribution of reporters, who work from home, which keeps overhead low. So far, advertising revenue is minimal and contributors are not being paid. They make ends meet with money from unemployment and their Star-Ledger buyouts.
"New Jersey Newsroom" is one of several new online news sites founded by former newspaper employees.
This week also saw the selection of winning proposals for community news sites by American University's New Voices program, which hands out grants of up to $25,000, funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, to help local news organizations launch. This year's winners include GrossePointToday.com, a site started by Michigan's Wayne State University. It employs about two dozen laid-off and retired newspaper journalists; Oakland Local, which employs five full- and part-time editorial staff as well as citizen journalists; Backyard News, with Web sites serving a half dozen suburbs of Harrisburg, Pa; the Austin Bulldog, founded by a veteran Austin journalist and employing laid-off newspaper journalists and citizen journalists; and New Era Media, employing 10 citizen journalists between the ages of 17 and 30.
One of the first of this new generation of online news sites, Minnpost.com, is still going strong. This pioneering Twin Cities online newspaper was launched in November 2007 by Joel Kramer, the former publisher of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Articles are contributed by dozens of journalists who were laid off by the Star Tribune and St. Paul's Pioneer Press.
At the time, Kramer said MinnPost.com targets Minnesota professionals who read The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal for their news and supplements it with local coverage.