"Part of my difficult in doing all the jobs that I've got to do and doing them well is that I do have an interest in journalism and I've got to put up something new on the front pages ... I'm driven to do that and sometimes it means late nights. ... I do it because that is just what I'm gonna' do.... did you get into journalism because it was fun? It sure as hell wasn't the money. it's fun. I want to go see. Dammit . . . but there is also a recognition that I am fairly small and vulnerable . . . [but] I have no fear of nailing the son-of-a-bitch, maybe that is the best way to say it."
-- Pat Hughes, in an Oct. 17, 2007 interview with the Media Giraffe Project.
Hughes is using a lifetime of corporate and entrepreneurial experience in mainstream media to build a community-news and information website for one of the fastest-growing U.S. suburban areas. Paulding.com is a quirky but high-traffic website for communities west of Atlanta.
Pat Hughes has worked in community journalism, advertising, online hosting, clerking, TV reporting, sports reporting, and marketing. As the population of Paulding County, Ga. began to boom, Hughes saw the opportunity for a hyperlocal news site and obtained the Paulding.com domain in 1997 as editor of a local weekly newspaper.
"Overall the scoops - particularly of the gun on bus story, provided good buzz in the community and ended the first year with 2965 registered members - an average of over 240 new members a month ... a rate we've maintained since.
"Notably, that May 04 registration total is a site record although we have come close to the 582. That too, was news driven as we recorded 576 new registrations in January 07 after three teens died in an tragic auto accident.
"Indeed, I can point to the ebb and flow of registrations over the 75 months we've been in business and tie high-registration to events with high news interest. "
He also ends with this thought on citizen journalism:
"Yes, it is true, with that many warm bodies you won't get 100 times the news
from this unruly crowd but you will get two or three times the news at
no increase in cost. Of course there is another cost you will have to
put up with which is 5000 times the chatter. I recommend you embrace
that chatter and sell banner ads on the pages they appear. I do."
Len Witt, a professor at Kennesaw State University, commented on Paulding.com in a 2005 posting.
Hughes has also been honored as a Knight brothers news challenge winner.
On Aug. 7, 2007, Hughes was part of a breakout discussion at Journalism That Matters: The DC Sessions on trying to identify the idea place characteristics for a "next newsroom" test site. You can stream or download the audio from that discussion.
"I've got an active audience," said fellow breakout participants. "We are on the radar, because hell, people talk about us." He has 12,500 registered users among 43,000 households. Some of his local news postings get as many as 714 comments and 24,000 views. On a recent major crime story, he said: "We had the right facts three hours before the Atlanta Journal Constitution and the TV stations."
Hughes' target user area is 35 miles northwest of Atlanta. He says it has grown from 24,000 population in 1990 to 125,000 in 2007. Hughes used to edit the weekly "Paulding Neighbor" and he now competes with the weekly "Dallas [Ga.] New Herald." He says the area is politically dominated by real-estate builders.