Articles by

Paul Bass

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    Photo by Patrick Breitenbach on Flickr. Paul Bass is executive director of the Online Journalism Project, a not-for-profit that promotes and publishes public-interest news websites. Ten years ago I stumbled across a blog called Baristanet, and believed I may have seen the future of local news reporting. Ten years later I stumbled across podcasts called “Reply All,” “The Read,” “States of the Re:Union” and “Dear Sugar”… and wondered if I had seen the next model for local news reporting. Those podcasts have nothing to do with New Haven, Conn., the city of 130,000 people where I have worked as a reporter for 35 years. They don't do local journalism. But like the Baristanet blog—where readers in New Jersey were helping to develop in real time a story on a bomb scare, then analyzing it in the context of a changing community’s demographics and values—the podcasts suggested a new approach for reporting or interacting with “the people formerly known as the audience,” to borrow a phrase from media guru Jay Rosen. They suggested a way of reviving an endangered journalistic species—thoughtful radio reporting and conversation with a targeted listenership—with new tech and distribution tools. Maybe, I thought, that model can inspire us to try something new in keeping quality local Web journalism thriving in New Haven. We tried something new in 2005. We launched an online-only, not-for-profit news site called the New Haven Independent. It combined old-fashioned reporting—of neglected zoning and school boards, neighborhoods, ward-level elections, criminal-justice issues—with multimedia tools that enabled us to tell stories and develop an ongoing, high-impact civic conversation in new ways—at a fraction of the previous cost of doing business. It felt like a model for local news reporting 2.0. Ten years later we’re still here. (Hallelujah!) We publish editions in New Haven, the lower Naugatuck Valley and Branford. We break a lot of stories and interact with a diverse readership. We feel that what we do every do matters. And we have a lot of fun. (Plus we can pay health insurance and salaries competitive with other local media.) Readers in New Haven need to read both the legacy monopoly daily print newspaper and us—not just one or the other—to stay informed and get involved.