With Gannett in retreat, could Patch step up? Or how about the TAPinto model?

I’m not going to keep doing this, but it’s only Week 2 of The Transcript & Journal. My capacity for outrage hasn’t faded away yet. So here it is.

The T&J, owned by the Gannett chain, is sent to people in Medford and Somerville who previously subscribed to the Medford Transcript or the Somerville Journal. There’s not a single Medford-specific story on the front, and the story about rats only glancingly mentions Somerville. The inside consists of press releases, a story about a dog park in Billerica, a report from State House News Service and an obit from Cambridge. Nothing on the mayor’s office, the city council, the school committee or the police department — not even a civil-rights complaint filed against the police several weeks ago, which even Patch managed to write up.

It would be amazing if Patch saw this as an opportunity to go back to its old formula, at least in some communities — one full-time journalist and a modest freelance budget. I doubt that’s going to happen, though. They seem happy with their current, profitable model in which one person produces content for multiple cities and towns. But who knows? I thought this was pretty encouraging:

I’d also love it if someone wanted to start a TAPinto site in Medford. TAPinto is a franchise model that allows entrepreneurs to get up and running very quickly with a local news site. Ellen Clegg and I recently interviewed TAPinto founder and CEO Michael Shapiro on the “What Works” podcast. If anyone wanted to start such a project here, I’d be happy to make introductions.

A network of community news franchises: Mike Shapiro on what makes TAPinto click

Mike Shapiro

Mike Shapiro is the founder and CEO of TAPinto, a network of more than 90 online local news sites, most of them in New Jersey and with a few in New York and Florida. Shapiro launched TAPInto in 2008. Back then it was called TheAlternativePress.com, and the goal was to build a network of hyperlocal news sites covering New Jersey towns.

His core idea is relatively simple. Would-be editors and publishers are actually franchisees. They pay a fee to buy into a turnkey operation that gives them access to technology and marketing resources. Shapiro’s team provides training and maintains the infrastructure, but these publishers are responsible for maintaining and growing their readership. Some have journalism backgrounds, but some join because they love their communities and want to become small business owners. The name was changed as the network grew: Shapiro no longer sees it as an alternative to just one newspaper, but as a way to “TAPinto” any community.

I’ve got a Quick Take on a new survey by the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University that finds that news consumers in Chicago aren’t willing to pay for local content, and my co-host, Ellen Clegg, nerds out on a recent NiemanLab report on the importance of local coverage of science.

You can listen to our conversation here and subscribe through your favorite podcast app.