A despicable way to handle closings and layoffs

In case you missed it, you have got to take a look at how a shrinking chain of hyperlocal websites handled closings and layoffs earlier this week. As reported by Gawker’s Camille Dodero, Daily Voice chairman Carll Tucker sent out a company-wide email last Friday promising some pretty exciting news:

Monday morning we will share with you the news about where we’re going and how we’re going to get there. The news is good — but you’ll need to sit tight while we finalize our plans. Check your email about our company-wide phone conference early Monday morning.

I am pumped about the prospect of working with you to build a great company.

Monday comes around, and the Daily Voice announced it would shut down all 11 of its sites in Central Massachusetts. Widespread layoffs were reported at the company’s sites in New York and Connecticut as well. Despicable — not the downsizing, which may have been necessary, but the deceit.

“They bought us a year and a half ago and made a lot of stupid decisions,” Jennifer Lord Paluzzi, the laid-off managing editor of the Grafton Daily Voice, told Walter Bird Jr. of Worcester Magazine. “They would offer to put us up in hotels. All this stuff that had nothing to do with community news.”

It’s a shame, because the Central Massachusetts story was an inspiring one. Paluzzi, laid off by the MetroWest Daily News, started the Greater Grafton Blog. She later teamed up with a businessman named Jack Schofield, and together they built a network of hyperlocal sites in and around Grafton, selling out to the company that became the Daily Voice in 2011. I brought Paluzzi in to speak with my students a few years ago, and every so often I’d get a message from her telling me she was hiring.

Paluzzi has revived her blog, but it’s not clear what will come next. “We’ll get reacquainted after I take a bit of a rest,” she wrote on Monday. “I think I’ve earned it.”

Main Street Connect acquires CentralMassNews

CentralMassNews.com, a network of 10 community news sites in suburban Worcester, has been acquired by Main Street Connect, according to an announcement made on Thursday. The company will soon comprise 52 sites in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Westchester County, N.Y.

Jennifer Lord Paluzzi, a GateHouse refugee whose initial project, the Greater Grafton Blog, grew into what is now CentralMassNews, spoke to my students in February 2010. Here’s an account of her talk by Mary Ann Georgantopoulos, who has since graduated from Northeastern.

Paluzzi and publisher Jack Schofield will hold significant positions in Main Street Connect. “And we’re hiring!” says Paluzzi.

Frankly, I’m always sorry to see a grassroots news organization give up some of its independence. But this may give CentralMassNews the critical mass it needs to compete with other corporate players, especially AOL’s Patch.com. Paluzzi and Schofield are both great examples of journalistic entrepreneurship, and I wish them success.

CentralMassNews.com turns 2

Congratulations to CentralMassNews.com, a network of hyperlocal sites in the Worcester area that is celebrating its second anniversary. With a reported 150,000 unique visitors a month, the sites are a locally owned journalism success story, and a tribute to the hard work invested by publisher Jack Schofield and editor Jennifer Lord Paluzzi.

New-media mavens visit NU

Steve Garfield

We’ve been lucky to have some terrific guest speakers in my Reinventing the News class at Northeastern this semester.

On Monday we heard from Steve Garfield, one of the original video bloggers and the author of the just-released book “Get Seen: Online Video Secrets to Building Your Business.” I bought my signed copy from Garfield right after class and look forward to reading it.

Among other things, he’s got some information on how to use iMovie ’09, a great little video-editing program with a woeful lack of documentation. He also gave a demonstration of live video via Qik and showed examples of his citizen journalism, which have appeared everywhere from Rocketboom to CNN and the BBC.

Our other guest speakers have been Jennifer Lord Paluzzi, who became the editor of a thriving group of community Web sites called CentralMassNews.com after being laid off by the MetroWest Daily News, and Stephanie Miller, director of digital media for CBS Boston Television, who’s in charge of the Declare Your Curiosity project at WBZ-TV.