The Bedford Citizen, a nonprofit in Boston’s suburbs, names a new managing editor

Wayne Braverman (via LinkedIn)

The Bedford Citizen, one of the first and most successful hyperlocal websites in the Boston suburbs, has hired its second managing editor. Wayne Braverman, a veteran journalist who most recently worked for Gannett, will succeed Julie McCay Turner, who announced her retirement earlier this year.

Turner and two other women founded the Citizen 10 years ago. Originally an all-volunteer project, the outlet slowly morphed into a professional operation that was able to pay Turner and a part-time staff reporter, Mike Rosenberg. The nonprofit continues to be run by a volunteer board of directors. Braverman’s hiring marks the first time that the Citizen will be run by someone who wasn’t one of the founders and thus represents a rather momentous transition. Turner will remain involved in the Citizen as well.

According to Braverman’s LinkedIn profile, he was editor of Gannett’s Boston Homes publication until about two weeks ago, when Gannett closed the publication. He worked as the internship coordinator for GateHouse Media, Gannett’s predecessor company, from 2002-’16 and has also worked as a radio host and public-speaking instructor. He earned a master’s degree in journalism from Boston University and a bachelor’s degree in political science from UMass Lowell.

The Citizen is among the projects that Ellen Clegg and I are writing about in “What Works,” our book-in-progress about the future of local news.

What follows is a press release from Teri Morrow, the Citizen’s executive director:

I want you to be among the first to know: Wayne Braverman — award-winning journalist and Bedford resident — joins The Bedford Citizen as Managing Editor this week.

Wayne brings both reporting and editorial experience as well as considerable enthusiasm for Bedford to the role.

During his career, Wayne has served as a reporter, senior editor, and managing editor in the Boston area. He’s worked for print and online publications. And he has experience expanding the scope of local news.

As you’ll read this week, Wayne says The Bedford Citizen is “considered by many professional journalists to be the model of how people can come together to create a new media outlet to provide residents with effective coverage of their community.”

I hope you are patting yourself on the back! That’s because you are one of the reasons journalists like Wayne consider The Citizen as a model of local journalism! Thank you for standing up for local news.

Throughout the interview process, Wayne shared that he is “ready to carry on the … mission of The Bedford Citizen.” And that he will “work with our staff and the people of Bedford to take [The Citizen] to its next evolutionary level.”

I hope you are as excited as I am to see what happens in the coming months and years with Wayne in the Managing Editor role. Should you see him around town, please share your thoughts and ideas about The Citizen.

The Bedford Citizen’s ad-rich annual guide gets a shoutout from Editor & Publisher

Over the past few years, revenues at The Bedford Citizen, a nonprofit community website in the Boston suburbs, have ramped up from zero to more than $100,000 a year. The Citizen has done it through voluntary memberships, sponsors, grants, the NewsMatch program and — perhaps most significant — an annual glossy publication called The Bedford Guide.

The Guide is a 64-page magazine that serves as an introduction to the town. It is loaded with ads, and from what I can tell, all of them are local, from life sciences giant Millipore Sigma, which has a facility in Bedford, to the Cat Doctor. According to the Citizen’s executive director, Teri Morrow, the 2022 Guide (the third) which came out in December, will produce about $40,000 in revenues.

Now Gene Kalb, a Citizen board member who’s the main force behind the Guide, has been recognized by the trade magazine Editor & Publisher as one of its “Sales Supernovas.” He told E&P’s Robin Blinder that flexibility is a key to the Guide’s success, explaining:

The pandemic hit us just as we started our second annual Bedford Guide. The initial strategy was to approach retail establishments in town. During 2020 with almost all restaurants and retail establishments closed, we shifted our focus to larger corporate industries in town. Our publication is all about supporting our community, and the corporate neighbors in town stepped up to help us. With the retail landscape improving this year, we had a nice combination of retail and corporate advertisers.

Such revenues have allowed the Citizen to grow from an all-volunteer project to a news organization with paid employees — a managing editor, a part-time reporter and a part-time operations manager — as well as freelance fees for contributors.

Founded in 2012, the Citizen continues to grow in other ways as well. According to Google Analytics, the site had more than a million page views in 2021. Those of us who follow such things know that’s a statistic of limited value, but here’s another that’s rock-solid: about 2,200 people have subscribed to the Citizen’s free daily newsletter in a town with fewer than 5,400 households, for a penetration rate of more than 40%. (Caveat: Email being what it is, no doubt there are a number of families with more than one subscription.)

The Citizen is one of the projects that Ellen Clegg and I are tracking for our “What Works” book project. It’s encouraging to see how people in the community have come together to create a vibrant and sustainable source of local news.