By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

A bit more on why I keep visiting New Haven

I’m heading to New Haven in a little while for another round of interviews. I’ll be back Friday night. I’m also taking advantage of a hiatus at “Beat the Press” to visit an old friend at the Providence Journal on Friday afternoon. So it should be a good trip. It’s not likely I’ll be blogging, but since I can approve comments via BlackBerry, go ahead and have at it.

It’s also time to dip my toe in the water regarding the book that I’m working on. It’s hardly top-secret, but at the same time I want to be discreet. Anyway: A couple of months ago I signed a contract with UMass Press to write a book about the New Haven Independent and the rise of non-profit community news sites. (Working title: “The Wired City.”) The idea is that low-cost, online projects can at least partly offset the decline of for-profit newspapers — a decline that is far more advanced in Connecticut than it is here in Greater Boston.

The Independent is one of a handful of non-profits that are doing real community journalism. Though not as well known as Voice of San Diego, MinnPost or the Texas Tribune, it is nevertheless a viable, growing news organization that employs four full-time journalists plus another two at a satellite site in the suburbs. The Independent not only covers the big stories in New Haven, but also regularly publishes articles about the minutia in New Haven’s neighborhoods that the dominant daily, the New Haven Register, can’t touch.

I figure my book will be about 60 percent to 80 percent about the Independent, with the rest focusing on changing business models for journalism as well as on some other sites worthy of note — including a couple of for-profits I’ve visited, the Batavian, in western New York, and Baristanet, in Montclair, N.J.

I’d like to do a little bit of crowdsourcing; at the same time, I want to avoid writing my book in public. I’d welcome any ideas for people I should interview (in New Haven and elsewhere) and books and articles I should read.

I’ll have more to say as my project progresses.

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  1. BP Myers

    I smell a Pulitzer!

    Fascinating topic. Most sincere best of luck.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @BP: Let’s not get carried away! I smell tenure, or at least the hope of it. That would be plenty. Thank you.

  2. very cool!

  3. Dan, Have you taken a look at The Day in Hartford? I believe it has run as a non-profit for years. The legal document (trust?) that established it was required to plow back all but $25,000 into the operations of the paper each year. Some outstanding writers have gone through it, including Maura Casey, who went on to write editorials for the NY Times, and editorialist Morgan McGinley. I haven’t seen it lately due to my own schedule, but they always did an excellent job. Good luck on your book! It sounds terrific.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Margie: Do you have a link? I can’t seem to find it. Anyway, heading out.

  4. Steve Stein

    Not just for apizza?

  5. aaron goode

    The Day is in New London, not Hartford. This sounds like a great project. I’d suggest you get in touch with some of the more prominent commenters on Indy (Hopkins, Doyens, Streever, Three-Fifths, etc). Also with some activist groups (e.g. environmental groups like the New Haven Bioregional Group, Elm City Cycling, etc) that have always felt under-served by the Register. And if you want to find political activists and news junkies who are primary consumers of content from the Independent, you should come to a DFA New Haven meeting sometime (first Wednesday of the month at Wall St. Pizza, formerly Naples). Good luck.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Aaron: Yes, I realized later that @Margie meant the New London Day, with which I am familiar. The Day is not a non-profit, based on what I’m able to glean from this description. Rather, it’s a for-profit paper owned by a non-profit foundation, like the St. Petersburg Times and the New Hampshire Union Leader. It’s actually a great model, since it alleviates some of the financial pressures while at the same time avoiding some of the pitfalls of non-profit journalism, such as a federal law prohibiting non-profits from making political endorsements.

      In fact, I have interviewed Jonathan Hopkins, and Streever is on my list as well. If you have any insight into how to reach Three-Fifths, I’d appreciate it if you could pass it along. I would definitely like to meet him.

  6. You know you’re always welcome in Grafton, Dan. I’d invite you to the staff meeting — but we’re growing so fast, there may not be enough chairs!

  7. Surely Julian Assange is going to show up in there somewhere, right?

    I mean, Wikileaks is quite a different thing from the New Haven Independent, but it’s another example of how a one-man show can upend traditional journalistic institutions. Maybe there’s a similar model where community-driven sites allow people to disseminate local info. Not just “whistle-blower” stuff, mind, but just any kind of community news & info.

    For that matter, it may also be worth including bits about what Adam Gaffin is doing with Universal Hub, and what Rob Newman et al do with Davis Square LiveJournal ( ).

  8. Chris Helms

    My new company, Patch, plans to do Web sites in rural and under-served towns as This effort is separate from the sites.

    I’m the editor of JP Patch, which hasn’t launched yet.

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