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September 27, 2010

An update from Charlottesville Tomorrow on the non-profit news sector

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201009-bxb2010 I had the pleasure of attending the Block by Block Community News Summit 2010 this past week in Chicago.  I met a lot of very smart and dedicated people all very passionate about the critical importance of engaging communities in local news. Many of the participants represent what are collectively known in the "new media" realm as the "hyper-locals."  About 125 people were able to attend and our hosts Michele McLellan and Jay Rosen deserve a lot of credit for their work putting together a great conference.

A big take away was that Charlottesville Tomorrow is not alone. There are thousands of people around the country working on hyper-local news sites.  Many are 1-2 person operations run by former journalists who lost their jobs in the newspaper industry.  They have launched over the past 6 years as both for-profit and non-profit companies trying to fill an information gap in their community.  At over five years, Charlottesville Tomorrow is among the veterans in this group.

While in good company, Charlottesville Tomorrow remains unique, particularly in its media partnerships and approach to community engagement. We still appear to be the only hyper-local in the country with a substantial relationship with a print newspaper.  Further, our investment in a community wiki (www.cvillepedia.org), in community visualizations (www.cvilletomorrow.org/cville3d), in non-partisan election coverage, and in outreach and participation with other business and community groups appears to be uncommon. The Block by Block participants demonstrated a number of unique approaches and new ideas that we will learn from and apply here in Charlottesville.

Given the uniqueness of our partnership with The Daily Progress, I want to share some very positive data covering the first year of our work (Sept 2009 to Aug 2010).

Partnership Highlights 2009-2010

  • 145 published stories (newspaper’s online and print editions) including major front page stories, features, and collaborative series
  • 20% increase in newspaper’s content on growth and development (Charlottesville Tomorrow now produces 23% of content in that area)
  • 100% of Charlottesville Tomorrow’s stories now appear on the newspaper’s website (automated RSS feed) and 50% appear in print
  • Significant collaboration between editors, reporters and graphic artists, in both organizations, to maximize quality and timeliness of coverage
  • Joint production of local election voter guides
  • There is no direct financial contribution to Charlottesville Tomorrow

The benefits of this partnership to Charlottesville Tomorrow have included increased exposure, greater credibility, access to the newspaper's talented team, and most importantly an increasing number of people informed by our high quality in-depth local news.

As always, we would appreciate any feedback about this ongoing collaboration.  You can leave a comment on this post or contact me directly at bwheeler@cvilletomorrow.org or via phone at 434.260.1533.
 
Brian Wheeler
Executive Director
Charlottesville Tomorrow

"The partnership is clearly benefitting our readers,
who are getting more public affairs reporting at a
time when most news organizations are pulling back.
The Daily Progress is a better, more consistent
newspaper because of this partnership."

McGregor McCance
Managing Editor, The Daily Progress

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