"Well I really love the work. I love the reporting, I love writing. I love working with other people . . and really it's a labor of love, absolutely. It's fun for me to do; I find it interesting. For me [it's] also the thrill of finding a story that's going to be helpful to people who live here to kind of uncover something that people need to know. There is a real satisfaction in that and the feeling that I am contributing something to the community . . . hoping to get the truth about whatever it happens to be out there so the folks living here in Portland can make better decisions, it may inspire people to write letters, to show up at the city council meeting, who knows?"
Chris Busby, in a Nov. 20, 2006, MGP interview
UPDATE, from The Bollard website:
The Bollard is Portland, Maine's independent voice for local news and arts coverage. Launched online on Sept. 1, 2005, The Bollard began quarterly print publication in June 2007, and monthly print publication in June 2008. Our free monthly magazine is available at over 200 locations between Bath and Biddeford, including 14 Shaw's and Hannaford supermarkets in the greater Portland area.
When Chris Busby found himself "heartbroken" and without a job as an editor of the soon-to-be-defunct Casco Bay Weekly, an alternative newspaper in Portland, Maine, he decided in September 2005 to start a new news organization -- but not on paper. Busby is owner of The Bollard a local online news website for Maine's largest city which is named after the dock hitching post used by ships in places like Portland Harbor -- a play on the "posting" to blogs.
With a degree in English from Penn State and some graduate work in environmental studies, Busby had worked as a listings editor at The Boston Phoenix and ended up as a reporter and then editor at The Weekly. Now, his website covers news, arts and entertainment -- and he plans on June 1 (2007) to launch a quarterly print publication with the same name -- part of a trend of online websites co-marketing with a print publication. His goal is fact-based reporting, but with a point of view, much as he used to write for print.
He covers news, arts entertainment, and tries to have a largely neutral point of view. Occasionally there will be an angle pushing a specific point of view. In November of 2006, he had 12 regular advertisers and between $500 and $1,000 a month in revenue. The ads are sold monthly but he is talking about selling them every other week. The ads range in cost from between $25 to $50 a month now. He thinks that as the site traffic grows he can get up to $4,000 a month in revenue.
The print publication, he says, "will be a venue for our longer stories, magazine feature length cover stories. We'll be doing some and some longer in-depth pieces on the arts and the like that way. It will be a distinct product from the website. The website will have al the listings. We'll use that for our breaking news and for features in between the when the print publication is coming out. Longer stories in print, some of the more breaking, time sensitive information online. We hope the two forms will complement each other."
Busby says he loves the work, the reporting, "It's a labor of love, absolutely," he says. "For me [it's] also the thrill of finding a story that's going to be helpful to people who live here -- to kind of uncover something that people need to know. There is a real satisfaction in that and the feeling that I am contributing something to the community . . . [I'm] hoping to get the truth about whatever it happens to be out there so the folks living here in Portland can make better decisions. It may inspire people to write letters, to show up at the city council meeting, who knows?"
In one instance, Busby says his extensive coverage of the city's effort to adopt drug-free zones caused city officials to rethink the proposal. He also says The Bollard's extensive coverage of financial troubles in the Maine fishing industry put that subject back on mainstream media's front burner. He sees himself sometimes helping the established media by providing more depth on stories, and sometimes chastising traditional outlets for failing to cover news or covering it inadequately.
Busby writes about two or three substantive stories a week and that amounts to perhaps 30 hours a week---that's about 10 hours a story. That's a lot of time -- and it is indicative of the time he puts in generally on a piece. He spends most of his time when writing trying to make sure the flow of the story engages people, that he tells the story in a "story-like way" that is accessible and keeps readers hooked and engaged in a story throughout. He says: "That's really where a lot of the time goes in. We are not just plugging in facts they way a daily newspaper would do." He says the irony of the 24/7 world of the web is that he actually feels less deadline pressure when working on an exclusive story to get it done. Instead, he can take the time to get it complete before he posts it.
Busby's greatest fear is that he may make some bad business judgment. His background is writing and journalism. But now he is a business entrepreneur. "The business side is still something I am definitely learning," he says. But he has no intention of turning ownership over to a non-journalist -- because he feels that would lead to a loss of focus.
Profile written by Bill Densmore, MGP editor