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Beacon and Newspapers: What do you want in the future?

Hey All,
I'm working on a project aimed at helping journalists start news sites in communities with little or no news coverage.

In part, Beacon and the popularity of BCN inspired me. Also, I work at the Times Herald-Record and we often hear people over the river asking us to cover them.

In honing my goals for this project, I'd like to get feedback from the community.

Here are some questions I'm looking to answer...

Why do you think small community papers haven't succeeded in Beacon?

Does the community want more news coverage or are you happy the current resources?

Would the community support a subscriber-based online paper? (aka Community Supported Journalism) If so, at what cost: $5/month, $10/month?

What kind of news is Beacon missing? What kind of news does it want?
a: Hyper-local (city meeting/court/police/school coverage)
b: Regional (Dutchess County legislature, other county that impact Beacon)
c: Statewide (Albany coverage that impacts Beacon)
d: National (U.S. trends that concern Beacon residents)
e: All of the above

Thanks for your thoughts!

Tags: beacon, community, news, newspapers

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beacon used to have some sort of weekly/ monthly newspaper a few years ago. i think it was run out of cthonic clash, in the basement. but one of the dudes who ran it moved to hughsonville, and the rest of them... don't know where they went. someone else here might know more details. certain to be a treasure trove of wisdom from the previous operators of that, if they can be located

wait i remembered the name and found them:

http://www.beacondispatch.com/

not updated in awhile

#1: the future of the newspaper is hyperlocal to regional. this is the only revenue model that works in the internet age. even then, its a diminished revenue model, and mostly online. dead tree print is still important, but much diminished

#2: most people will be interacting online, so you want your web presence to be like BCN. this will actually be the focus of your endeavour, not the side show. your dead tree print is your side show. and either online or dead tree: it must be free for consumers. advertising should be your only source of revenue. people have too many sources of info nowadays with the internet. they just aren't going to pay for it

#3: there is still a place for the idea of the newspaper, dead tree or online, to earn money doing things that must be done by paid reporters. things like the police blotter. i would love to see the beacon police blotter reported weekly somewhere, but it's one thing to ask for that, and its another thing for some guy or gal to trudge down to the police dept and transcribe the blotter. so this is where newspapers can generate much local interest for their service, which equals more eyeballs, which equals more advertisers. also: investigative journalism. the function of the news media is to keep our government honest. point a spotlight, watch the bugs scatter. no spotlight, the bugs come out and play. we NEED that sort of honesty enforcement the news media provides. this is what worries me about the decline of the fortune of newspapers nowadays due to the internet. we still need investigative journalism badly for a healthy society, but the money isn't there anymore. well, its still there, just greatly diminished

its all on a much more modest scale nowadays. your internet presence/ internet advertising is more important than the dead trees thrown at your doorstep/ in the rack in the deli, and internet advertising revenue is always smaller in scale too

so get in partnership with kelly. take the success of BCN and build a monthly/ weekly dead tree version around it, tightly coupled with the online version

and whatever you do, don't try to pull a rupert murdoch and charge for content online, that will reduce your visitors by a tenth or a hundredth. yes, internet advertising is less lucrative than dead tree print ads, but that's just the way it is, the new world is diminished in returns. the days of the newspaper barons is over. the rise of the hyperlocal discussion forum barons like kelly is here. lol
Thanks Ben.

The problem is that online advertising hasn't yet proven lucrative enough to support a news operation. Plus, Beacon's business community isn't thriving right now.

If subscribers won't pay for new and advertisers won't pay for news, who will pay for news?

Aside from the overall future of newspaper debate, I'm looking to hear from Beaconites: Do you actually want local news?
This is something we discussed when first starting BEAHIVE and something we're still planning to pursue. One of the things we've talked about is making BCN that resource -- that is evolving it to include some citizen-reported and/or community-supported journalism. And perhaps, exactly as Ben suggests, including a complementary dead-tree version.

Meghan, I'd love to pull you in to help us make it happen. Let's meet sometime. Contact me off-site: scott [at] beahivebeacon [dot] com.
i just had an idea, seems like a good place to put it:

when i was in high school, i had an after school job where i would go down to city hall with a laptop, transcribe the week's real estate transactions, and shuffle the laptop back to the danbury news-times (my mom was a reporter/ editor at the danbury news-times, that's how i got the job)

the point is, kelly, or whomever instantiates the larger news media venture here, should go to beacon high school, post a job notice for a budding journalist student: $20-$40, or whatever, to go down to the beacon police station, monthly or weekly, and to transcribe the police blotter, and post it to bcn

the cost would be offset by the greater increase in interest in the site the blotter would generate, which should theoretically translate to more ad revenue

just an idea, would probably work. although it will be hard to make this idea, or any news media idea, work in the extremely financially constrained new landscape of news media on the internet
Yes, I've talked to Kelly a bit about something like this. My project won't necessarily be executed in Beacon, but I want to get feedback for my grant writing from a community that doesn't have a newspaper and BCN is obviously a great place for that.

I don't want to build a citizen journalism network. They have their role... That's kind of what BCN does already and it's great for connecting people and marketing events. But I don't think they take the place of professional newspapering...
"instantiates"...nice word,ben!
sorry, i'm a computer programmer, its the lingo ;-P

Rob Penner said:
"instantiates"...nice word,ben!
I think, a dollar or two per "expose" would be profitable and useful. The more useful the better. Example. The weekly crime rate--what is documented-- Micro local--- Beacon Police department would be worth $10 a month or $2,3 a look. Same with tickets at the train station parking. Many people who pay for parking, wonder if there is parking or if it is worth paying for permit--would pay for research. Monthly or weekly. It would encourage the companies to write tickets hahaha. Handicap spaces are used by normal people, but who tickets or checks them? That is $250 per ticket. Journalists could document and get "reward".

Same with Beacon Mountain and ATVs. If journalists would attack real problems... the people suffering would pay. It would be worth it to pay $10 per person to stop the noise, etc of jeeps, ATV's on mountain and how much would the owners pay?

So I recommend looking at rewards/penalties etc. So much BS gets by because no one is watching.

What happens in Beacon, because there is no "real" journalists, is that people can lie. Like the Hindenbrook business AND closing a firehouse. Liars say Hindenbrook is sucking up money because a REALTOR "owns" a tiny bit, and that fireman will be LAID off if a fire house is closed. When you examine the facts it is a completely different story but people only read the editorials.

Without real journalism, people get mixed up about FACTS and commentary.
That would be a good job for you! you know a lot thats goes on in Beacon. (have your ears to the tracks) You have an inside line to city Hall! I think it would help this form out greatly ! So get started.....

Charlene Vesuvius said:
I've seen no evidence that Beacon residents are interested in local reporting of local topics. They seem to like event notices, affinity group information, penny saver type notices, and opinion discussions -- but I haven't seen a great demand for news that would be reported on in a journalistic way. I don't think that the main stays of small town news -- crime, politics, small business comings and goings, community relations, event coverage, critical reviews, etc. would go over that well on an online site like BCN. But it is easy enough to test -- have some journalists in the area volunteer some real coverage of local issues and post them here on BCN and see if there is much interest. Won't cost a dime to see if News is liked or disliked.
There are plenty of hyper-local stories that would be of interest. The Beacon Dispatch never had trouble finding stories and issues to cover. I think you have to dig a little deeper, but finding those stories without a network of Beacon residents might be a little hard. The obvious stories that could use some good reporting are the TOD, the tax increase, and the impact of consolidating the firehouses. Some other potential stories: 1) A guy in town wanted to take some mature trees down on his property. They were dying, breaking up the sidewalk and ruining his foundation. The city told he couldn't take them down because they were trying to save old trees and made him pay an arborist to say they needed to come down. This an issue that could affect many residents as there are a lot of old trees in the city which will need to come down. 2) There is a guy in town trying to buy the car repair business just off West Main heading down the train station. While not in the TOD zone it is very close. The city is putting him through the hoops on this and he is probably spending a lot of time and money. My guess is the city doesn't want the business there because the TOD plan calls for no automotive related businesses. Palasi Auto Body has already been approached and asked to move. I think the problem with this project will be asking people to pay. The Beacon Free Press is free. The Dispatch was free. The Poughkeepsie Journal online is free. People are way to used to getting free information. I might be willing to pay to see what information is provided, but I would be doing it with a critical eye, weighing the expense against the value of the information. At the moment I have no idea of how to value $60/year or $120/year worth of local news. Looking at it on a yearly basis it sounds expensive compared to the cost of a magazine or newspaper subscription.
Local news, generally: detailed planning board and city council meetings, features on local people/pursuits; etc. Like the Beacon Free Press of years past, when the late Dick Shea was reporting. The Free Press, when it was run by John Darcy, was a solid newspaper.
Megan -- the Dispatch was operating in the black when it closed down. Too much work for too few people. I wrote for them for most of their existence and have most of the old issues if you would like to see them.

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