__ __ -- ______________________ Peter Georgescu, chairman: Young & Rubicam Inc. chairman emeritus; Y&R grew from an advertising agency to a network of preeminent commercial communications companies dedicated to helping clients build their businesses through the power of brands; previously Y&R chairman and CEO from 1994 until January 2000; career spans 37 years and top management experience, both in the United States and Europe; elected to Advertising Hall of Fame in 2001; currently a director of IFF and Levi Strauss, and vice-chairman of New York Presbyterian Medical Center and vice-chairman of the New York Philharmonic. He is a past director of Toys ‘R Us, EMI Recorded Music and Briggs and Stratton. Stephen I. Sadove, director: CEO of Saks Inc., since January 2006 and board chairman since May 2007; previously Saks vice chairman and COO; senior vice president of Bristol-Myers Squibb, a beauty, nutritional, and pharmaceutical compan6y, and President of Bristol-Myers Squibb Worldwide Beauty Care from 1996 to January 2002; serves on the boards of directors of Colgate-Palmolive Company and Ruby Tuesday, Inc. Carll Tucker, founding partner: Formerly editor/publisher of Trader Publications, Inc., a community news company based on Cross River, NY, founded in 1981 and sold to Gannett in 1999; editor and publisher of Saturday Review Magazine; began career as a Village Voice staff writer; was chairman of Northern Westchester Hospital Center, founding chairman of Northern Westchester Hospital Center Foundation; board member of Caramoor Center for Music, Milbank Memorial Fund, Marcia Brady Tucker Foundation and Bank of New York; author of The Bear Went Over the Mountain (2008). He can be reached at www.carlltucker.com. John Falcone, founding partner: Formerly senior vice president mobile network at SmartReply, the largest SMS mobile advertising network in the U.S., with more than 1,150 local and national media partners including radio, print and local and cable television, and reaching more than 200 million consumers per week; formerly CEO of Oxygen Electronics, a B2B global sourcing company he funded to serve the electronic component market. Jane Bryant Quinn, partner (editorial director): Nation’s leading commentator on personal finance, with books and columns read and trusted by millions. She was a long-time columnist for Newsweek, Woman’s Day and Good Housekeeping magazines, a widely syndicated newspaper columnist for The Washington Post, a columnist for Bloomberg.com, the financial correspondent for CBS Morning News and CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, and the host of two PBS series. She is a regular guest on “Good Morning America,” “Nightline,” “The News Hour with Jim Lehrer” and many other programs; author of Making the Most Of Your Money. Visit her at www.janebryantquinn.com. Charles G. Newton, lead franchisee: Publisher of My02818.com, first-of-its-kind in Rhode Island hyper-local news and information site in East Greenwich, launched in March 2009; 2002; previously served for three years as COO of the Rhode Island advertising agency Cote & D’Ambrosio before a stint as Executive Director of the Rhode Island Republican Party; earlier spent 10 years in the electric utility business in Boston; a 17-year career with the public relations firm, Burson-Marsteller in New York, Atlanta and Hong Kong; and three years as managing director-corporate relations for DBS Bank Group in Singapore. Advisory board: Michael J. Dolan: former executive vice president and CFO, Viacom, Inc.; former senior adviser with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.; former chairman and CEO of Young & Rubicam. Jim Spanfeller, former President and Chief Executive Officer of Forbes.com; currently Online Publisher’s Association treasurer; chairman emeritus of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB); on the boards of Freedom Communications, Inc., Ziff Davis Enterprise Group, We Are Family Foundation and the ABM (American Business Media Association). ----
Meet the team:
Main Street Online
Peter Georgescu, chairman: Young & Rubicam Inc. chairman emeritus; Y&R grew from an advertising agency to a network of preeminent commercial communications companies dedicated to helping clients build their businesses through the power of brands; previously Y&R chairman and CEO from 1994 until January 2000; career spans 37 years and top management experience, both in the United States and Europe; elected to Advertising Hall of Fame in 2001; currently a director of IFF and Levi Strauss, and vice-chairman of New York Presbyterian Medical Center and vice-chairman of the New York Philharmonic. He is a past director of Toys ‘R Us, EMI Recorded Music and Briggs and Stratton.
Stephen I. Sadove, director: CEO of Saks Inc., since January 2006 and board chairman since May 2007; previously Saks vice chairman and COO; senior vice president of Bristol-Myers Squibb, a beauty, nutritional, and pharmaceutical compan6y, and President of Bristol-Myers Squibb Worldwide Beauty Care from 1996 to January 2002; serves on the boards of directors of Colgate-Palmolive Company and Ruby Tuesday, Inc.
Carll Tucker, founding partner: Formerly editor/publisher of Trader Publications, Inc., a community news company based on Cross River, NY, founded in 1981 and sold to Gannett in 1999; editor and publisher of Saturday Review Magazine; began career as a Village Voice staff writer; was chairman of Northern Westchester Hospital Center, founding chairman of Northern Westchester Hospital Center Foundation; board member of Caramoor Center for Music, Milbank Memorial Fund, Marcia Brady Tucker Foundation and Bank of New York; author of The Bear Went Over the Mountain (2008). He can be reached at www.carlltucker.com.
John Falcone, founding partner: Formerly senior vice president mobile network at SmartReply, the largest SMS mobile advertising network in the U.S., with more than 1,150 local and national media partners including radio, print and local and cable television, and reaching more than 200 million consumers per week; formerly CEO of Oxygen Electronics, a B2B global sourcing company he funded to serve the electronic component market.
Jane Bryant Quinn, partner (editorial director): Nation’s leading commentator on personal finance, with books and columns read and trusted by millions. She was a long-time columnist for Newsweek, Woman’s Day and Good Housekeeping magazines, a widely syndicated newspaper columnist for The Washington Post, a columnist for Bloomberg.com, the financial correspondent for CBS Morning News and CBS Evening News with Dan Rather, and the host of two PBS series. She is a regular guest on “Good Morning America,” “Nightline,” “The News Hour with Jim Lehrer” and many other programs; author of Making the Most Of Your Money. Visit her at www.janebryantquinn.com.
Charles G. Newton, lead franchisee: Publisher of My02818.com, first-of-its-kind in Rhode Island hyper-local news and information site in East Greenwich, launched in March 2009; 2002; previously served for three years as COO of the Rhode Island advertising agency Cote & D’Ambrosio before a stint as Executive Director of the Rhode Island Republican Party; earlier spent 10 years in the electric utility business in Boston; a 17-year career with the public relations firm, Burson-Marsteller in New York, Atlanta and Hong Kong; and three years as managing director-corporate relations for DBS Bank Group in Singapore.
Michael J. Dolan: former executive vice president and CFO, Viacom, Inc.; former senior adviser with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co.; former chairman and CEO of Young & Rubicam.
Jim Spanfeller, former President and Chief Executive Officer of Forbes.com; currently Online Publisher’s Association treasurer; chairman emeritus of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB); on the boards of Freedom Communications, Inc., Ziff Davis Enterprise Group, We Are Family Foundation and the ABM (American Business Media Association).
The Bear Went Over the Mountain
Finding America. Finding Myself
From the publisher, Mary Ann Liebert, Inc:
"After reaching age 50, author and publisher Carll Tucker knew he needed to make some changes. To figure out his new life, he took to the American road—alone in an RV—for nine months. His plan was to locate all the graves of our presidents and vice presidents—and find his own new self and direction.
"Join Tucker as he uncovers fascinating new information about famous and forgotten leaders. Who knew that one of our vice presidents was an American Indian or that another was believed to be African-American? Why were we never taught that a president and vice president were gay?
"From Wal-Mart® to Disneyworld® to
Join the conversation
See responses to the article at our blog.
-- No one will read these sites.
-- You can do this on your own.
-- Tucker responds: "We can help local entrepreneurs get off to a faster, more profitable, and less risky start."
What do you say?
Add your comment.
Other Courant woes
The Hartford Courant ran into plagiarism charges last week when Manchester, Conn.-based Journal Inquirer Editor Chris Powell publicly took issue with the paper's new "news aggregation" policy. That, to Powell and others, was a fancy way of the Courant saying it was too cheap to pay for reporting in suburban and rural Connecticut, so it started stealing stories from other papers.
The Courant ran a mea culpa.
Powell told Jilted Journalists he wasn't sure how the Courant got behind the JI's pay wall. "I don't know if the Courant facilitated its rewriting of the JI's work by paying for access to our Internet site. I haven't checked the electronic subscription list, but every print subscriber can get a log-on and password and I'm sure some Courant people subscribe to the JI under their own names rather than the Courant's. And our circulation areas completely overlap, so they would have easy access to our print edition each day that way."
How did if feel winning one against the big guys?
"As for going up against them, the JI has been doing that since it went daily in August 1968. It felt like any other day since then, only maybe a little more fun, since we had caught them in a pretty embarrassing position. "
Powell wrote a column after the Courant apologized. He offered to let us reprint it, but it turns out it's on the free part of the JI site, so we'll let them get the hits here. (Links to his columns are at bottom of home page.)
Among other times Powell and the JI went up against the Courant was a presentation to the FCC in February 2003 "to protest Tribune Co.'s monopolization of the news media in Connecticut and to urge the Federal Communications Commission to enforce the cross-ownership rule against Tribune instead of repealing the rule. They have not won that one.
ID card battle
Powell also was in the news last year when he went before the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission. Powell said he was representing himself and that the JI was not involved.
He and another party, Dustin Gold (no relation) of New Haven, sought the names, addresses, and photographs of 5,000 New Haven residents enrolled in the Elm City identification card program.
The $10 ID cards are available to all residents, even undocumented immigrants, and double as library cards and debit cards holding up to $150 to pay for parking and purchases, and serve as secondary IDs for people opening bank accounts or seeking other services.
The commission ruled New Haven could keep the names secret.
Attorney in the news
New Haven Attorney Joseph Garrison represented former major leaguer Harold Reynolds in his wrongful termination suit against ESPN. Reynolds worked for ESPN as a studio analyst for 10 years until his termination after what Garrison called an "innocuous" hug with an intern. The suit was settled in 2008 for undisclosed terms. Reynolds began working for MLB.com in 2007 and became a studio analyst in 2008. Before joining ESPN, Reynolds spent 12 years in the majors with the Mariners, Orioles and Angels.
Media consultant, blogger, and CUNY professor Jeff Jarvis has a few ideas for how to replace the local newspaper with new business models for news. You can see his spreadsheets and discussion here.
At home with
George Gombossy lives with his wife, Laura Gaston, in East Longmeadow, Mass., and says he has a great view of Wilbraham Mountain. On the other side of town is arguably the best Friendly's Ice Cream shop in the chain.
Got an idea? 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. “You invent it. We fund it!” is the 2010 contest slogan.
From Knight news release:
MIAMI – The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation is accepting applications 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.
Got an idea?
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. “You invent it. We fund it!” is the 2010 contest slogan.
Get a feel for the Barnes & Noble eReader promotion at our blog.
Jon Talton is a journalist and author living in Seattle. He writes the “On the Economy” column and Sound Economy blog for the Seattle Times, and is editor and publisher of the blog Rogue Columnist. Jon is the author of seven novels, including the David Mapstone mysteries.
His sixth novel is The Pain Nurse, published by the Poisoned Pen Press. He is under contract for a seventh, a thriller set in the newspaper world called Deadline Man, due out next summer.
For more than 25 years Jon has covered business and finance. Jon was a columnist for the Arizona Republic, Charlotte Observer and Rocky Mountain News. Jon also served as business editor for several newspapers, including the Dayton Daily News, Rocky Mountain News, Cincinnati Enquirer and Charlotte Observer.
"Most journalists probably aren't novelists or short-story writers. Those who have it in them, have to spend time learning a very different craft....
"Some workshops and classes can be helpful. The most prestigious ones can help with networking (it's as hard to find an agent as a publisher). Also, check out Julia Cameron's "The Artist's Way." Set aside your cynicism about some of her New Age/12-Step language -- do the exercises. It will make a difference.
"It's crucial to keep learning, reading the best writing, becoming a better and better craftsman.
Donald Maass is a literary agent in New York. Maass’s agency sells more than 150 novels every year to major publishers in the U.S. and overseas. He is the author of The Career Novelist (1996), Writing the Breakout Novel (2001), Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook (2004) and The Fire in Fiction (2009). He is a past president of the Association of Authors’ Representatives, Inc.
In The Fire in Fiction Maass illuminates the techniques of master contemporary novelists. Some authors write powerhouse novels every time. What are they doing differently on the page? Maass not only explains, he shows you how you can right away use the techniques of greatness in your current manuscript.
For more advice from Maass, check out his May interview in the Novel Journey blog.
Georganna Hancock is based in San Diego and provides a variety of services for writers, including help with editing, query letters and writers' Web sites. Her Web site, www.writers-edge.com, has links for free articles on tips for writers as well as books and downloads to buy. Another Web site, www.hancockwebsites.com, explains her services in creating custom Web sites for writers, books and authors.
"The best query is one page long, and the first one will be the most difficult writing job you've ever had, except for a synopsis. Many writers agree that both are harder to write than the book. If your book is nonfiction, you need to have built a platform for marketing well in advance of querying."
Finding an agent
Many agents who blog include links to advice on getting started, writing query letters, technical formats, and, of course, success stories about authors they represent.
One common theme among blogs we've checked out:
Don't waste their time. They're inundated with queries, but they don't want to skip over good work, either. Their rejection rates run about 99%, says one.
Check out their guidelines on their blog or at their agencies' Web sites.
Here are a couple of our favorite agent blogs (even though some were too busy to answer questions for this story package), in part because they and others have links to even more information: Janet Reid
The Granddaddy helper of writers:
Book industry news:
Got more recommendations to share? Send them to
“A politician has a Rolodex filled with people who owe him favors. I have a Rolodex filled with people who are probably pissed off at me”
-- John Dougherty
Democratic Senate candidate
in Arizona primary
Dougherty says he'll be back
Jolting journalist John Dougherty says he's not giving up on seeking public office despite his third-place out of four finish Aug. 24 in Arizona's Democratic U.S. Senate race.
A Tucson Weekly blog quoted him as telling supporters, "We're going to be around for more races in the future ...For too long, folks, we've been ignored ... money has been stolen from the middle class."
He's considering a run for the U.S. House as well as taking another shot at the Senate, the blog said.
Dougherty captured 24 percent of the vote.
The winner, at nearly 35 percent, was former Tucson city councilman Rodney Glassman, who raised over $1 million, including $500,000 of his own money.
Second place went to former state Rep. Cathy Eden, with 27 percent. In last place was political organizer Randy Parraz, who garnered about 14 percent.
Glassman will face incumbent Republican Sen. John McCain, who handily defeated tea-party conservative and ex-Congressman J.D. Hayworth about 55 percent to 32 percent. Their race was watched so closely nationally that a third Republican and the entire Democratic race won scant attention in the media.
Our orginal story follows:
seeks Senate seat
One of the nation’s most-ignored U.S. Senate primary races features a jolting journalist.
Democrat John Dougherty put his reporting career on hold for his admittedly long-shot, 11th-hour challenge against establishment Democrats for the right to take on the winner of the race that is in the national spotlight.
“There’s an interesting confluence between job descriptions of a journalist and a senator,” Dougherty told Jilted Journalists. But, he acknowledged, there’s a big difference in being a candidate.
“As a journalist, you’re gathering information and asking a lot of questions. As a candidate, you’re responding.”
And then there is raising money to run.
“A politician has a Rolodex filled with people who owe him favors. I have a Rolodex filled with people who are probably pissed off at me,” Dougherty said.
Still, he said, his investigative journalism background could spark voters’ imaginations and show them why “I can’t please the rich and powerful.”
Dougherty in conversation and on his web site credits his 1989 story in the Dayton Daily News for triggering the Keating Five Senate Ethics Committee hearings and nearly ending Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain’s career.
Among other stories: A 2004 report on the bootlegging roots of McCain's wife's family liquor business; early 1990s reporting that he says foreshadowed the downfall of Arizona Gov. Fife Symington, who resigned from office in 1997; stories he says “exposed” Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s “corruption”; and reports of polygamist cult leader Warren Jeffs’ abuses.
His work provides the core of what Dougherty said would be his approach to being a senator.
“A senator has a responsibility to know how to ask questions,” he said. “I can’t wait to hold hearings at the U.S. Senate … A senator has a responsibility to act in a proactive way and not just passively receive bills written by lobbyists.”
He said he would hire investigative journalists for his staff and have them provide reports to him and to voters.
“We’ll bring investigative journalism inside the Beltway and Senate, find out what’s going on,” he said.
First he has to get there. The first step would be winning the Arizona Democratic primary on Aug. 24. Early voting begins July 29, the day after Dougherty turns 54.
He faces three Democrats who signed up before he did and some who may be more familiar to voters.
They are portrayed in Arizona media this way:
-Rodney Glassman, former Tucson City Council member, “the presumptive Democratic candidate,” but a relative unknown outside of Tucson. He has traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with incumbent Democratic politicians, win their favor and look for money. His war chest is $750,000.
-Former state Rep. Cathy Eden, D-Phoenix, 60, who served in the state House in the 1990s and later was director of the Arizona Department of Health Services under Govs. Jane Hull and Janet Napolitano. She made a short-lived bid for the Senate in 1994.
-Randy Parraz, 42, an attorney and political organizer who helped found Maricopa Citizens for Safety and Accountability to expose "the abusive practices and policies" of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's office. He lives in Scottsdale.
None, according to recent polls, stand a chance against the incumbent Republican senator who is in the race garnering national attention.
That’s McCain vs. radio talk-show host and former Rep. J.D. Hayworth. Their bickering over which is more conservative and which is stricter on immigration is portrayed as a near walk-up to a ballot-box replay of Tombstone’s 1881 Shootout at the O.K. Corral.
The New York Times rates Arizona as “solid Republican,” but Dougherty said he holds out hope that the Republican fighting and the nation’s anti-incumbent mood could combine to give him a shot, especially if bloggers and reporters report on his candidacy.
For example, Arizona may not be as Republican as the Times insists.
The state’s voter registration is fluid, as would-be primary voters have until July 26 to register. When registration was locked in for a May 2010 special election, registration tallies broke down this way:
-The state has nearly 3.1 million registered voters; more than half, 1.8 million, live in Maricopa County, the Phoenix metro area.
-Statewide, about 1.0 million, or 32.67 percent, are Democrats; 1.1 million, or 36.16 percent, are Republicans, and 927,829, or 30.25 percent, are ‘other’; Libertarian and Green make up the rest, which is less than 1 percent.
-If Dougherty wins, he would become only Arizona’s 12th senator since the state was founded in 1912. Of the first 11, six were Republicans and five were Democrats, including the state’s longest-serving senator, Carl T. Hayden (1927-1969).
-Five of Arizona’s eight House delegates are Democrats, but the state last sent a Democrat to the Senate in 1988 when voters re-elected Dennis W. DeConcini for his third term. He did not seek re-election in 1994.
Dougherty indicated the facts are encouraging, not daunting. He cited Arizona election quirks, such as electing Democrat Morris Udall to the House while sending Republican Barry Goldwater to the Senate, and electing Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano, now Homeland Security secretary, while sending Republicans McCain and Jon Kyl to the Senate.
Dougherty said he gets a strong response from voters that people are disillusioned with politicians, “although journalists are down there with lawyers and used-car salesmen.”
“But as a journalist, my reporting stands the test of time, facts and key information hold up despite attacks,” he said.
Dougherty said he hopes to appeal to the grassroots and collect a little money at a time from a lot of people. He’s challenging his rivals to a series of debates to show why he should be the voters’ choice.
“There’s an anti-incumbent, anti-politician mood,” he said. “What guy besides me is better?”
Dougherty said he shares the frustration of government espoused by tea-party members but not their solution.
“Government is not the problem, corrupt government is the problem,” he said, blaming lobbyist spending for putting corporations and special interests ahead of people.
Government needs to be “much more aggressive,” “strong,” and “tough,” he said.
“I don’t think tea partiers want to hear that,” Dougherty said.
But citing recent news stories, he advocated for government to protect people “from the abuses of corporations” and others.
For example, Arizona dropped charges against polygamist Jeffs because witnesses wouldn’t testify.
Dougherty said he’s been to their communities at the corner of Arizona and Utah.
He asked where were McCain, Kyl, and Utah's senators?
“That’s a theocracy with massive federal funding,” he said of Colorado City’s airports, education system and sewers.
“This is outrageous; it’s a failure of the Senate and House. As a senator, I would hold public hearings and move this forward, I’m not scared,” he said. “I’ve been there; I’ve been threatened; I’ve written about, so it’s risen to a national issue.”
Dougherty said he wants to bring that outrage to the Senate after winning his uphill fight that he described in a writer's term:
"If I win this, it will be an interesting narrative."
Update: Main Street Online's corporate site made its debut Jan. 12. The site has specific pages for anyone interested in investing, partnering (i.e., running a community Web site), advertising or even being hired.
The mission: "Main Street Online empowers local entrepreneurs to publish high-quality community news sites for their neighbors. Main Street Online provides all the technology, programs, launch capital, training, and ongoing guidance our local partners need to succeed."
Original stories below.
By Jim Gold
Thousands and thousands of journalism jobs may open up as an effort to establish hyper-local online newspaper franchises takes hold.
First announced in summer 2009, the project by two veteran journalists and others who miss local news will launch in late January 2010 with at least six URLs.
Founding partner Carll Tucker announced recently that the group Main Street Online has raised the $10 million in private equity it needs to launch. (Group details at right.)
Tucker says he is persuaded now more than ever that people and advertisers will support community news endeavors.
"The desire for community is hardwired in, they will seek it," he said of people. "Community news is one of the things they will seek."
At the same time, local advertisers finally are embracing Web advertising, Tucker said. He and his wife, personal finance columnist Jane Bryant Quinn, unveiled the news-site plan after they found the newspapers serving their country home ceased publication. (Original story below.)
While Web-site plans still call for individual sites to carry TheDailyTown.com URLs where they are available, Tucker said parent group Main Street Online has refined behind-the-scenes financial and technology issues since the project was first announced.
The goal is to create good businesses for those who run them while providing local communities the news and advertising they need, Tucker said.
Tucker called them examples of local sites "doing well but not well enough."
The franchisee will be Jodi Jordan, a public relations veteran who has served as a public affairs officer for the military and contractors at Air Force bases.
"I think we have a great opportunity to serve our military community here by providing relevant and timely news, Jordan said. "Here at Luke Air Force Base, it would be news created by military family members for military family members."
Jordan said existing news outlets don't provide a lot of coverage meaningful to military spouses.
"I'm hoping we can bring our community closer by providing the information and resources they need."
Why go with a franchise?
"Main Street Online is offering the help my team needs to put out the best product for our readers," Jordan said. "We could probably venture out on our own, but I don't think we'd have the quality product and advisory expertise we can get with the Main Street Online organization."
Tucker says he knows his group still has to prove itself, especially as other groups announce expansions of their versions of local news sites.
One, patch.com, recently announced expansion into California and posted advertisements for multimedia reporters.
Tucker called Patch.com a top-down organization hiring reporters and having them parachute into communities.
He envisions Main Street Online will be built from people who have passion for their communities and know they have to build their sites into successful businesses.
That means knowing the community, but also creating enough critical mass for each site to build a large-enough base of unique visitors, especially Main Street Moms, to attract a slice of $100 billion spent on local advertising annually plus national advertising that the parent company will secure.
For those interested, Main Street Online has specific traffic, market-share and revenue goals.
If the business follows projections, about 1500 sites would be operating profitably in eight years. While franchisees are best-positioned to serve as their own editor-publishers, they will have payrolls that include journalists.
"We could be employing thousands and thousands of journalists," Tucker said.
(Original story below.)
couple behind plan to save
If you have the passion for community journalism and want to make money, they want to hear from you; see how it works
By Jim Gold
Two veteran journalists incensed by the loss of local news are out to save it.
They're recruiting jilted journalists and others to join them in a new for-profit venture to create hyperlocal online newspapers.
But it's not for just anyone.
"Whoever does these papers has to be passionately committed to community news," said Jane Bryant Quinn, Newsweek personal finance columnist and author of the bestselling books Making the Most of Your Money and Everyone's Money Book.
"Think of it as community journalism in a kit," said Carll Tucker, author and publisher who sold The Patent Trader and the rest of his suburban New York newspaper and magazine group to Gannett in 1999.
Tucker said he is developing a business-franchise plan with no upfront fees to make it easy for journalists and others to launch high-quality community news sites. His company, TheDailyTown.com, would provide plug-and-play tools along with support and guidance in exchange for royalties.
He would be a franchisee's main adviser on the advertising side. His wife, Quinn, would be the chief journalism-side adviser.
Quinn said she's not dropping out of national policy debates but considers news on the local level "just incredibly important" to keep communities informed and going.
This time, it's personal
Quinn said she and Tucker were at their country home in Beekman, N.Y., in February.
She went out to the mailbox and pulled out a copy of The Voice Ledger.
On the front page was horrific news: She was holding the cherished weekly's last edition.
The newspaper's bankrupt parent Journal Register Co. shuttered the Taconic Media group, publisher of seven Dutchess County weeklies that it bought 11 years earlier.
"We're in the middle of fights over zoning and no one can find out what's going on," Quinn said. "Of course the politicians love not having reporters around."
Quinn said she is convinced a lot of people love their community and would love to have a decent, online newspaper.
She also acknowledged that "newspaper" is "old-fashioned language" for what she's talking about but bear with her.
"People care about their community, they care about its politics, knowing other people, supporting local stores, restaurants, soccer teams, schools, libraries..."
"Only local papers bring that all together."
But, Tucker said, more than 5,000 local papers are in danger of going out of business.
He's getting close to launch and says it's time to test the waters, see who wants in, who wants to operate one of a dozen or so beta sites, be part of the discussion on how it's done.
If interested, email him.
(That's carlltucker [at] mindspring [dot] com.)
(That's carlltucker [at] mindspring [dot] com.)
We're corporate and we're here to help
Tucker said Dailytown.com will ease franchisees' entry into the business and provide ongoing counsel and tools needed for success. Nothing is guaranteed but sites should generate at least break-even revenue within their first year. That's $200,000; or only $80,000 if the site is run as a mom-and-pop operation.
Tucker said all news-generation and local ad sales would be done by the franchisee. The parent company would supply tools and recommendations.
"We’re their partner, not their boss," he said.
Among the tools and support:
-Editorial template and content management system.
-Local ad sales instruction.
-Local promotion support.
-Community of fellow publishers to exchange ideas.
"Journalists don’t have to reinvent the wheel learning aspects of hyperlocal publishing with which they haven’t been familiar," Tucker said. He explained some further details:
The ideal community for each site would cover between 15,000 and 30,000 households with families -- parents with children at home -- the dominant demographic.
That would give each site about 1,000 businesses to call on. That could yield 100 advertisers paying $10 to $200 a week each, maybe $300 for Realtors.
While Dailytown is the parent, Tucker says specific flags would be TheDailyChappaqua, The DailyBrentwood, The Daily… etc. with the town’s name large, and the brand’s small.
Once a network of Dailytown sites is in place, national advertising could be sold, and that revenue could be shared back to site owners.
He expects the venture to be funded by year's end and operational in 2010.
Will it work?
It could work, said Jonathan Butler, who operates brownstoner.com in Brooklyn.
Brownstoner did not set out to be a local community news site. Butler started brownstoner as a blog about renovating a brownstone in 2004 while he was still working in the hedge fund industry.
"Now we're as big as three local papers put together," he said.
He worked full time at the hedge fund job plus full time on the Web site for its first two years.
"Early on there was enough of a pulse that I sensed that I was onto something," Butler said.
Advertisers came to him and it's a good thing they did.
"I hate sales."
Because he was still working, he also wasn't overly concerned with site-generated revenue.
Now he is, and he's branched off into another venture, Brooklyn Flea.
He said he's making money now but not as much as last year with the housing bust and recession cutting down renovation projects. Still he has enough to employ two half-time reporters.
He launched and folded a general-interest site along the way. too.
"It was clear that it was never going to sell enough ads to dry cleaners and restaurants to make it feasible," he said.
Tucker's plan could work, he said, with a national network of local ad sales, good content and readership, and a national ad component.
"Somebody at some point will get this right; he has as good a shot as any," Butler said.
The bottom line
"We are looking for enterprising journalists who know their community well and are willing to work hard," Tucker said. "We are seeking expressions of interest. This is an opportunity to own your own business, control your own destiny, build equity, practice journalism, and play a central role in your community."
What's it like to be an Alpha dog after your newspaper of 40 years kicks you to the curb?
"Exhilarating!" says George Gombossy, inviting other jilted journalists to join him.
The outspoken Connecticut consumer watchdog is finding that his Web site, ctwatchdog.com, is a big hit right from launch in August.
"Companies are still afraid of me."
One of those companies is Comcast, which was in the midst of issuing an apology for a customer's missed cable-installation Gombossy was exposing last week when Jilted Journalists caught up to him by phone.
"Without the Courant behind me, I was afraid they wouldn't give a rat's ass." Gombossy wrote the Hartford Courant's "Watchdog" column for the past three years after being the paper's business editor for 12 years. Now "Watchdog" is his online pursuit.
"I was fired because I was not sucking up to advertisers," he reiterated to Jilted Journalists.
Tribune-owned Courant management tried to dismiss his claims merely as grumblings from a disgruntled, dumped employee. They said they want to take a new approach to the consumer watchdog column after merging the newspaper staff with Tribune's WTIC-TV staff.
The issue may be settled in court.
Gombossy says he plans to sue the paper where he worked for 40 years rather than take a severance package.
"I'm not going to be gagged," he says, referring to silence clauses often inserted in firing settlements. "I'm not going to shut up when my paper's become unethical."
He says the wrongful termination claim will center on a unique attribute in Connecticut law protecting free speech involving the public good.
"This one is so crystal clear, they're done," he says.
He is represented by New Haven employment attorney Joseph Garrison.
Meantime, he's focusing his efforts on his Web site, which he will turn into an Internet newspaper.
"The future is in the Internet and internet journalism," Gombossy says.
On Aug. 3, Gombossy says he was told he would be fired. On his last day, Aug. 14, he turned in his badge at 3 p.m. and by midnight the site was up.
His plan includes hiring reporters and bloggers, covering local news and generally being a local site with "higher standards."
As the site develops quickly, it is getting more hits, but more importantly more stickiness.
And that, Gombossy says, is more important for local advertisers who find views from people in 120 different countries meaningless because they count on local customers for business.
Gombossy announced on his Facebook page that ctwatchdog.com put up its second paid sponsor and at least two more are in the works.
Gombossy acknowledges he has some advantages over other jilted journalists when it comes to launching a new Web site, but others can succeed too.
"I was lucky for a host of reasons."
His main advantages are branding and experience.
"The Courant spent half a million marketing me and my column," he says.
The paper blasted his face on billboards and the sides of buses and bought TV and radio ads to promote his column and watchdog logo
"There's eight billboards scaring kids with my mug on it ... but that's why I could launch my web site, instant recognition."
The Courant also spent thousands training him and others on blogging, social networking, and gaining Google recognition.
"Great stuff," he says.
Along with investigative journalism skills developed at the Courant, he got to walk away with his Rolodex stuffed with 7,000 names and email addresses and the rights to the domain name, which he bought two years ago.
Another thing 40 years of work brings you is retirement age status. He turns 62 this month (September) and could start collecting Social Security plus his company retirement.
While he's striking out on his own, he's not going it alone. His marketing and sponsorship director is Carol Mueller, retired marketing director of the Connecticut Dental Association. His Web site is designed by Jeanne Leblanc and Tom Twitchell, partners in Digital Media Cooperative. Leblanc also operates coachclassblog.com.
But Gombossy says his head start shouldn't discourage others from taking the plunge.
He networks with other news Web sites and says a couple are doing well, such as newhavenindepndent.org, a well-sponsored non-profit connected with the Online Journalism Project.
He envisions online community publishers networking with each other, forming relationships and helping each other.
"We're not in competition with each other. We should be helping each other grow, sending business each other's way.
He also had other key pieces of advice:
-- Have a good marketing plan.
-- Remember, advertisers don't advertise in newspapers that aren't respected.
Don't let competition or industry upheaval
keep you from writing your masterpiece
By Jim Gold
Jilted journalists who think they finally have the time to write books shouldn't give up their dreams, but they shouldn't expect a quick fix either.
Like newspapers, the traditional publishing industry is in its own throes of changing technology, a deep recession and fickle reader habits.
More people are trying to make deals as publishers cut back offerings in response to falling sales.
"The part of my business that is editing manuscripts and developing agent queries, synopses and proposals has increased four-fold in recent months," says former newspaper reporter Georganna Hancock of A Writer's Edge in San Diego.
She recommends journalists stick with what they know and use their expertise in writing non-fiction.
But a novelist and a literary agent say if you really have the calling to write a novel, go for it.
"It's hard," warns author Jon Talton, who spent most of his career as a newspaper reporter and columnist. "But if you really feel the call, you can't quit. So don't. Never give up your dream."
Talton and Don Maass, president of Donald Maass Literary Agency in New York, both say journalism and novel writing are different skill sets. But novelist skills can be learned and plenty of help is available.
“A typical learning curve for novelists, from start to published, is 10 years," Maass says. "Writing a novel, then, isn’t likely to be a quick fix."
Tough times, it figures
All three warned of fierce competition and publishing industry numbers appear to bear them out. The figures also indicate an industry in upheaval.
The Association of American Publishers recently reported that in June overall book sales were up after being down in May. June increased by 21.5 percent at $942.6 million and were up by 1.8 percent for the year.
Adult hardcover, paperback and mass market categories all showed double-digit increases for the month but were still down double-digits year-to-date. However children's and young-adult categories fell for the month but were up for the year (think "Twilight").
Another industry indicator is the Bowker "Books In Print" database. It recently summed up figures for 2008: Traditionally published U.S. title output decreased by 3.2 percent, with 275,232 new titles and editions, down from the 284,370 published in 2007. Fiction titles dropped 11 percent to 47,541 from 53,590. Several non-fiction book categories went up, but each represents a small portion of total titles. Among double-digit percentage gainers were education, agriculture, arts, business, cookery and language.
But Bowker also reported an "extraordinary year" of triple-digit growth in the "On Demand" and short-run segment with 285,394 titles. On-demand services, such as lulu.com, print and ship book orders as they come in for authors' works. That can include self-publishing, but small houses are turning to such services, too. And, in another example, Business Week reported that the University of Michigan is teaming up with Amazon.com to sell 400,000 rare or out-of-print titles, digitized by Google, through print-on-demand services. Softcover editions will sell for $10 to $45. Other universities are setting up similar on-demand programs.
“Our statistics for 2008 benchmark an historic development in the U.S. book publishing industry as we crossed a point last year in which On Demand and short-run books exceeded the number of traditional books entering the marketplace,” said Kelly Gallagher, vice president of publisher services for New Providence, N.J.-based Bowker. “It remains to be seen how this trend will unfold in the coming years before we know if we just experienced a watershed year in the book publishing industry, fueled by the changing dynamics of the marketplace and the proliferation of sophisticated publishing technologies, or an anomaly that caused the major industry trade publishers to retrench.”
Besides print-on-demand, further adding to industry turmoil are Amazon's Kindle, Sony's Reader, and a Barnes & Noble e-reader coming next year from Plastic Logic. Barnes & Noble also just announced e-book apps for iPhones, Blackberrys and computers that will offer 700,000 titles at $9.99 each. Other mobile e-book apps are on their way.
E-book sales in June , said Association of American Publishers, jumped up by 136.2 percent for the month ($14.0 million), reflecting an increase of 149.3 percent for the year.
The Google Books project is also upsetting publishers, according to The Boston Globe. Google has scanned 10 million books and offers free access to 1.5 million. It aims to create a digital book warehouse accessible by any device. A lawsuit over rights is just about settled.
While technological innovations may broaden the appeal of books and create a larger market, they also will change book-payment models for publishers, which in turn could change author payments.
Getting real with fiction
Publishers are still looking for new properties, though.
Maass said his agency sells more than 150 novels every year to major publishers in the U.S. and overseas.
"Novels are fiercely competitive," he said. "Writing them well is a rare accomplishment and getting published, while difficult, is only the beginning of an even more difficult journey to stay published and win a wide readership."
"On the other hand, fiction writing is an art form that certainly can be learned. There are lots of books on the subject (including some by me), plus plenty of conferences, workshops and professional organizations to help."
Talton explained what it takes to write news vs. fiction: "Two different brains, almost."
The easily transferable skills: Clear, concise writing, spelling, meeting a deadline.
"But turning off the analytical brain and turning on the fiction brain isn't easy," Talton said. Also, one must be intensely self-directed. It's lonely work, full of disappointment, without the daily affirmation that comes at a paper. Hemingway said something to the effect that journalism will help a young writer up to a point, and after that it will ruin him."
Talton also warned of rejection slips piling up and an elitist, fickle, unfair New York-centric publishing industry.
"They have to be prepared for rejection on a scale they've never before encountered. ... I had three separate novels rejected over a 17-year span. I got in, finally, because I came to know the right people who knew people in the inner circle. On the other hand, there are plenty of publishing opportunities at reputable smaller houses, including outside New York."
Hancock suggests skipping fiction completely and memoirs, too -- "unless you have juicy tell-all tales that you can crank out fast." But that's the exception.
She called the chance of landing a traditional publishing contract for a first novel infinitesimally small. "Even finding an agent, which is a necessity for fiction, is quite frustrating," she said.
"If you have specialized in your writing, know your area well and could be considered an expert, you might be able to transit into freelancing for a living. Or you may be able to turn your knowledge into a nonfiction book. But making the leap from newspaper articles to magazine-length pieces can be a difficult adjustment. To move from reporting news to attempting a book is a risky leap for a beginner."
She said nonfiction is much easier to sell, and sometimes it goes directly to the publisher. Memoirs and "how to" books remain strong.
Follow the money
Talton and Hancock both noted payments for most authors are small.
"Writing books is seldom remunerative, especially for newbies, but they all think they have a shot (and a book in them)," Hancock said.
Deals vary, but generally traditional commercial publishers pay royalties of 5 percent to 20 percent.
College bookstores trying to show students why books cost so much, post diagrams showing textbook authors typically get 11 to 12 cents of each dollar spent on textbooks.
New print-on-demand services are a way of self-publishing. Guides note that authors own the rights to their own books and keep most of the profits. Authors also pay for services and they are their own marketers.
Vanity and subsidy publishers are out there too. Proceed with caution.