In “Entrepreneurial Lessons,” by journalism professor Jeff Jarvis, he discusses being a judge at an entrepreneurial journalism competition. After providing many tips for entrepreneurs and journalists themselves, he emphasizes how glad he was that young journalists were taking business seriously: “Journalistic entrepreneurship is not an oxymoron. To my amazement, every single one of the students said they wanted to start these businesses; I was hoping one or two might be so ambitious and independent…. It is a lesson to the industry: Give this kind of talent an opportunity to invent and innovate and they will.”
He also linked to another post where he talked about the judges of the competition. One that caught my eye was Debbie Galant of Baristanet, a harbinger of hyperlocal Jersey journalism that was founded ahead of the curve in 2004.
Baristanet has many unique attributes. Covering a small area of Essex County, NJ, it receives its income through ads and has inspired many contemporaries (including, according to its website, ones in Pittsburgh, Brooklyn, New Haven, Watertown, MA and Red Bank, NJ.) It has an interesting connection to its audience by sourcing citizen journalists but also having a moderated comment policy that includes registering a log-in account. In a 2012 post that Galant wrote when she decided to move on from the site after 8 years, she writes of its founding. ““Blogging had created an instant publishing platform and with a minor investment, I could start a 21st century version of the local hometown paper. The news site I imagined would be breezier than a traditional newspaper, more fun, and more interactive.” Baristanet proved to be all of these things, now, according to its about page, receiving over 9,000 page views per day.
Jeff Jarvis, who wrote the original article above, has blogged about Baristanet as well. He met Galant at a meetup where, he said, “She thought blogging about a town was a great idea. ‘But why would I do it for you, Jeff?’ she said. She was, as usual, right. So she started her own, Baristanet.” As I’ve learned repeatedly through this independent media class, blogging made starting one’s own journalistic outlet much easier; she could work for herself, and employ her own local and committed staff. Hopefully, the many brilliant ideas afforded grants at the competition that Galant and Jarvis both judged created some tangible winners that will be just as successful as Baristanet has become.