Who and What Drives Seattle’s Independent News Sites

The news sites that The Seattle Times tapped for a yearlong experiment in content-sharing and collaboration are independently run and well-established in their coverage areas.

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Although the sites are building readership and a devoted following, they are start-ups with small budgets and minimal staffs. Most of the editors interviewed say that reader interaction — tips, comments and submissions — help drive growth of their sites.

“Even when we’re covering the Hill‘s news on the site, it’s very apparent that there are a multitude of voices involved with the site — the best stories become a discussion,” said Justin Carder, founder of CHS Capitol Hill Seattle.

Here is a look at the independent news sites that are working with the Times:

Next Door Media

Named for the neighborhoods they cover, Next Door Media’s news sites are My Ballard, Queen Anne View, PhinneyWood, Fremont Universe and Magnolia Voice. Founders Kate and Cory Bergman say their sites together average 850,000 page views per month. The Bergmans, both journalists, note on the company Web site that each blog is “powered by the community” it serves. My Ballard won the Online News Association’s community collaboration award this year.

The Bergmans did not start their sites as a business venture. In 2007, they launched My Ballard because they missed having a daily news source in their Seattle neighborhood. The popularity of My Ballard, which gets 60,000 unique visitors monthly, prompted them to start similar news sites in other neighborhoods.

Today, Kate is Next Door Media’s only full-time employee, after leaving KING-TV. Cory continues his work at msnbc.com, which has no affiliation with Next Door Media.

Cory sees hyper-local news sites as key to the future of community journalism. “Our goal at Next Door Media is to create a sustainable model of community-powered neighborhood journalism,” he said. “Without it, we’ll suffer the same fate that’s taking newspapers apart at the seams.”

West Seattle Blog

The word “blog” may be in the title of this community news site, which is on track for 8 million page views this year. But don’t refer to co-founders Patrick Sand and Tracy Record as bloggers. The husband-and-wife team say they are journalists reporting on neighborhood news with the same passion and professionalism they would bring to city, state or national stories.

“We only have ‘blog’ in our name because I had no idea when starting the site four years ago that it would take the turn it did,” said Record, a veteran broadcast journalist whose achievements include three Emmys for TV news coverage. “We just happen to publish in a blog format.”

West Seattle Blog offers timely reports on traffic, crime and other news in the community, with Record estimating she posts 12 to 14 times a day. Sand, who has a background as a radio announcer, handles ad sales.

Record and Sand also run a second neighborhood site called White Center Now.

CHS Capitol Hill Seattle

Capitol Hill already had a lot of attention from the media when CHS started three years ago. But publisher Justin Carder, who helped start the blogging platform Neighborlogs, added a twist. He made it easy for the community to contribute. “The site was created to share the Hill’s news for people that live and work here,” he said. “That stuff wasn’t being covered.”

“On CHS, anybody can add to the site. You just need to register and start posting,” Carder notes on his site. All postings run on a central page, but Carder elevates “well-crafted” and “important” entries to the home page, which gets the most traffic.
 
In October, the number of unique visitors will top 50,000, up from 39,000 in August. Carder believes there is constant demand for neighborhood news. “It’s as simple as wondering what that siren you just heard on the street outside was all about. Draw lines from that. The sirens are also local businesses: What’s opening? What will it be like? The sirens are city projects: Where should the next park be built? Where did that money go?” he said. “Some media outlets stopped answering those questions. Some did answer them and went out of business. Some never bothered.”

Rainier Valley Post

Publisher and editor Amber Campbell is a Rainier Valley resident who describes herself as “one of the nosiest neighbors you’ll ever meet.” With a background in marketing, Campbell aims to provide a daily source of news and information for the people who live and work in southeast Seattle. Her Web site tells readers that if they want “authentic” and “comprehensive” coverage of the Rainier Valley community, they’ve “come to the right place.”

Local Health Guide/Seattle

The Seattle-based health news and information site is owned and operated by Michael McCarthy, a medical journalist and physician. McCarthy is a former senior editor with The Lancet, the British medical journal. According to his Web site, McCarthy provides unbiased health news coverage for people living and working in Seattle and the Puget Sound region. The site is not affiliated with any hospital, health company or medical group.

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