THE FOLLOWING STORY IS FROM SEVEN DAYS, Vermont's alternative newsweekly, published in February, 2005. Here's the original link:
ORIGINAL HEADLINE: Don't like the news? Write it yourself
"It seems you can't pick up a newspaper these days without reading about how fewer people are picking up the newspaper. An article in Sunday's Washington Post began, "The venerable newspaper is in trouble." A quote from Sports Illustrated President John Squires went further still, declaring, "Print is dead."
"But as traditional daily newspapers are ailing, online news sources are sprouting all over the country. Last December, programmer and marketing consultant Brian Brown launched one in Burlington. Technically, iBurlington.com. is a blog -- a frequently updated website that lists the most recent entries first. But iBurlington is no solipsistic online journal -- it's more like a newspaper that invites everyone to become a reporter.
"Brown, a 34-year-old Ferrisburgh native who lives in Burlington, has some previous experience with online newspapers. In 1999, he designed a website for Middlebury's Addison Eagle, which he admits got very little traffic.
"He has higher hopes for iBurlington, which was modeled after a similar site in Brattleboro. In two years, iBrattleboro.com has attracted 701 registered users, who have posted more than 2460 stories. Both the Boston Globe and the Washington Post have mentioned the site. "I'm so impressed with the numbers that they've got up," says Brown. "If Brattleboro is getting this, Burlington's going to get at least this."
"Brown shows off his creation during an interview at Speeder & Earl's coffee shop on Pine Street, where piles of newspapers are scattered about. He opens his laptop, joins Speeder's free wireless network, and boots up. Recent articles, most of which he posted himself, include a dispatch from a Burlington City Council meeting about the city's smoking ban, a report on a state bill to lower the drinking age and a story about a Burlington High School basketball game. "I'm just going to let people have their say," he explains. "It's like an ongoing Town Meeting."
"Brown does censor the site -- he approves every article before it appears -- but the only things he edits out are profanity and blatant commercialism. Eventually he'd like to see others step up to moderate the discussion. Someone who's interested in politics, for example, could become the politics moderator. It's not a paid position, though. There's no money in this venture, for him or his contributors.
"The online publisher denies that he's trying to replace newspapers -- he simply says he's created a supplement, a way of disseminating news and opinions that the traditional media ignore. The stories on his site are opinionated and often unprofessional, but he's fine with that -- he doesn't believe other news outlets are truly objective, either. "The choice of stories is still a very strong form of bias," he observes.
"Not everyone in the field of journalism is shocked by that statement. Dan Gillmor worked for decades as a reporter and columnist in California before he left his newspaper job to start a foundation that promotes grassroots journalism. In his book, We the Media: Grassroots Journalism By the People, For the People, Gillmor writes, "The issues of our times are too complex, too nuanced, for the major media to cover properly, given the economic realities of modern corporate journalism."
'That sounds awfully serious compared to what's motivating Brian Brown to put so much time and effort into this project. He says simply, 'It's fun.' "