Globe cuts Your Town staffing in half

Just catching up with this. Jon Chesto of the Boston Business Journal reports that The Boston Globe’s Your Town sites are being trimmed by six correspondents — approximately half the staff. Your Town, part of the Globe’s free Boston.com website, provides hyperlocal coverage of the suburbs as well as of several Boston neighborhoods.

Screen Shot 2013-09-16 at 8.38.56 AMGlobe regional editor David Dahl tells Chesto that there will be no site closures. But it seems inevitable that there will be cuts in coverage, even though Globe staff reporters and freelancers will continue to contribute. There are more than 100 Your Town sites and about 15 related Your Campus websites covering colleges and universities in Greater Boston.

Your Town got off to a shaky start in 2008, as GateHouse Media — which operates Wicked Local sites in virtually all of the same communities targeted by Your Town — sued the New York Times Co. (the Globe’s owner, at least for a few more weeks) for copyright infringement, arguing that the Your Town sites in some cases aggregated virtually all of GateHouse’s content for a given community without offering much else.

The two sides reached an out-of-court settlement in early 2009, as I reported for The Guardian. Your Town eventually grew into a valuable resource in many communities. But it looks like the sites, which carry little advertising, got to be too expensive to operate.

Chesto writes that the cuts call hyperlocal coverage into question as a business strategy, noting that AOL’s Patch sites are in the midst of deep cuts as well. But though hyperlocal may well be a loser at the corporate chain level, there are a number of successful independent sites operating across the country. You could read a book about such sites, hint, hint. The real issue is that hyperlocal is best understood as a grassroots phenomenon.

Did Globe executives reach this decision on their own? Or was incoming owner John Henry involved? And if he was, what does that say about his priorities for the Globe?

(Disclosure: Journalism students at Northeastern as well as several other Boston colleges and universities contribute to the Your Town and Your Campus sites.)

Talking about local news in the digital age

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The video from a Sept. 22 event that I moderated at MIT is now online. The program, titled “Local News in the Digital Age,” featured David Dahl, regional editor of the Boston Globe; Callie Crossley, host of “The Callie Crossley Show” on WGBH Radio (89.7) and a regular on WGBH-TV’s “Beat the Press” and “Basic Black”; and Adam Gaffin, co-founder, publisher and editor of Boston-area metablog Universal Hub. The first person you’ll see speaking is David Thorburn, a professor of literature at MIT and director of the MIT Communications Forum.

Two hours is a long time to sit in front of your computer watching video. Fortunately, you can download an MP3 here.

Talking online local news at MIT

Please mark this on your calendar — it should be a good one. Next Thursday, Sept. 22, I’ll be moderating a panel on “Local News in the Digital Age,” part of the MIT Communications Forum.

We will have an all-star cast: David Dahl, the Boston Globe’s regional editor, who’s in charge of the paper’s regional editions and the hyperlocal Your Town sites; Callie Crossley, host of “The Callie Crossley Show” on WGBH Radio (89.7 FM) and a fellow panelist on “Beat the Press” (WGBH-TV, Channel 2); and Adam Gaffin, the co-founder, editor and publisher of Universal Hub, Greater Boston’s one essential hyperlocal news site.

The free event will take place from 5o to 7 p.m. in the MIT Media Lab’s Bartos Theater, at 20 Ames St. in Cambridge. It’s being held at the same time that the Online News Association’s annual conference gets under way in Boston, and we’re hoping a few attendees decide to wander over as well.