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« Engagement mission dictates four ways to build community ties | Main | Universal broadband, new delivery, tablets and home printers »

July 15, 2007

Comments

G. Patton Hughes

I've been thinking about this for the past week or so and decided to go ahead and make the pitch.

In the original plan specific criteria were set forth. when I read the criteria, I couldn't help but notice that my 'test bed' site fit pretty well with the effort proposed here.

Here are your criteria followed by notations about Paulding County, Georgia:
COLLEGE TOWN/COLLEGE NEIGHBORHOOD;
(Paulding has a community college)

200,000 POPULATION IN TOWN OR NEIGHBORHOOD; (A little shy here but the county is one of the nation's fastest growing counties and has a 2006 population estimate of 121,530 residents.)

45,000 TOTAL HOUSEHOLDS; (With 2.85 resident per household, based on the above population, the county has just over 40,000 households)

25,000 HOUSEHOLDS WITH INCOME OF $50,000 OR GREATER (Paulding's median household income is right at $59,000 suggesting that well over 20,000 of the households meet the income criteria)

65% BROADBAND ACCESS; (I don't have exact figures but I suspect that since Atlanta is the nation's most 'wired' city, according to Forbes, Paulding, as the MSA's youngest (median age) suburb has to be in the running. A 2003 survey by the community college of all high school juniors in the county showed that 89 percent of those students lived in homes with Internet access.


A DESIRE TO BUILD A LOCAL NEWS-GATHERING ORGANIZATION. THE NEXT NEWSROOM NEEDS TO BE LAUNCHED IN A PLACE THAT UNDERSTANDS THE IDEA, EMBRACES IT, AND SEES VALUE IN A LOCAL NEWSGATHERING OPERATION.

I would contend the success of Paulding.com, which as a shoestring hyper-local start-up, has gained citizen contributions from over half its 12,400 registered members suggests the community understands the idea. Here is a snapshot of articles since the beginning of the year organized by topic views in our county-wide news forum: http://www.paulding.com/kb/countwide%20news%20example.htm)

MINIMAL COMPETITION. VERY LIKELY, THE COMMUNITY WHERE THE NEXT NEWSROOM LOCATES IS BEING OVERLOOKED BY EXISTING MAINSTREAM MEDIA, IS BEING MARGINALLY SERVED BY OTHER LOCAL MEDIA, OR MAY NOT HAVE ANY LOCAL NEWSGATHERING ORGANIZATION AT ALL.

The only local news competition comes from two free distribution weeklies and one legacy weekly, one PR magazine and a handful of shoppers.


A SENSE OF PLACE. THE NEXT NEWSROOM NEEDS TO BE ANCHORED IN A GEOGRAPHIC PLACE THAT HAS A CLEAR SENSE OF WANTING TO BE A DISTINCT PLACE, NOT JUST AN UNFORMED SUBURB OR SUB-SET OF ANOTHER COMMUNITY. THE NEXT NEWSROOM CAN HELP A COMMUNITY BECOME A DISTINCT, COHESIVE PLACE.

Paulding county is definitely a place with its own government, three 'cities' and several identifiable communities.

Its sense of place is reinforced as the former county attorney is now speaker of the Georgia General Assembly.


LOCAL LEADERSHIP THAT ENTHUSIASTICALLY WANTS TO PARTNER.
LOCAL LEADERSHIP WILL NEED TO HELP LAUNCH THE NEXT NEWSROOM. THESE LEADERS MAY EMERGE FROM THE BUSINESS SECTOR, EDUCATION, MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT, PHILANTHROPY OR ENTREPRENEURS. THEY WILL SEE THIS AS A JOINT VENTURE FOR THE GOOD OF THE COMMUNITY AND PARTICIPATE IN THE FORMATION OF THE NEXT NEWSROOM.


I'll step forward as the local leadership that wants to partner and I feel the asset of Paulding.com, which is the product of the community as much as me, seeks the resources to do hyperlocal journalism right. We've done wonders with little to nothing and I feel we could do great things with a quarter of the assets contemplated.

COMMITMENT TO A PLAN TO BUILD UNIVERSAL LOCAL BROADBAND DIGITAL ACCESS. THIS ACCESS MAY BE IN PLACE, OR IT MAY BE PART OF THE START-UP EFFORT. WIRELESS DIGITAL ACCESS FOR A SIGNIFICANT PORTION OF THE COMMUNITY WILL BE A GOAL.

Notably, the county has a fiber network and recently had a new quasi-governmental/development authority created by the Georgia General Assembly to exploit this and other local assets. I've talked informally about this prospect and given local conditions, the idea of deploying low-cost/no-cost public wireless broadband service to serve a significant percentage of the county is not only technically feasible but may be politically doable.

ADEQUATE HOUSEHOLD EDUCATION AND WEALTH TO UNDERSTAND AND EMBRACE THE PROJECT. THIS ISN’T A PROJECT ONLY FOR THE WEALTHY. BUT TO SUCCEED, THE NEXT NEWSROOM MUST BE A PROJECT FOR A COMMUNITY WHERE ADEQUATE RESOURCES, INCLUDING EDUCATION LEVEL, DISPOSABLE INCOME, AND CIVIC ENGAGEMENT CAN BE TAPPED.

The county is not 'wealthy' ... 70 percent work outside the county in the greater Atlanta area, many in white collar and middle management positions. The type of housing being sold in recent years has been higher-dollar homes and with that has come greater affluence.

SIGNIFICANT ACCESS TO HIGHER EDUCATION RESOURCES AND INSTITUTIONS. THE PROJECT NEEDS SOME WELL-EDUCATED VOLUNTEERS AS COMMUNITY CONTRIBUTORS, ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS, AND RESEARCHERS.

Paulding's northeast border is about six miles from Len Witt's Kennesaw State College in Kennesaw, GA. Numerous students also commute to institutions in Atlanta including Georgia Tech, Georgia State, and Emory. Several other colleges are within commuting distance in Carrollton and Rome, Georgia.

LOCAL INVESTORS. THIS DOESN’T MEAN ONLY RICH PEOPLE. IN FACT, THE NEXT NEWSROOM WILL LOOK FOR A VERY BROAD BASE OF INVESTORS AND STAKEHOLDERS. THESE COULD INCLUDE FOUNDATIONS, MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENTS, LOCAL VENTURE CAPITALISTS, SMALL BUSINESS COOPERATIVES, CIVIC GROUPS, ``FRIENDS OF THE NEWSROOM,’’ OR OTHERS.

I think Paulding county's citizens, through their contributions to Paulding.com have already invested in the idea of local hyperlocal news with phenominal cit-j input. Paulding.com, because of what we've already accomplished, is poised to be taken to this next level with the input of professional journalists and a go-get 'em advertising staff.

I personally think Paulding.com would make the perfect test bed for this project as we've already done the groundwork and established a brand and an audience. As publisher of Paulding.com, I see brokering this deal as as an answer to my 21st Century Newschallenge. That challenge is to make paulding.com financially viable so that it can hire professional journalists and provide the depth of coverage the local community not only needs, but deserves.

Frankly, I would be incompetent as the publisher of paulding.com if I didn't see and pursue this potential opportunity. As the sole owner of this venture I am willing to consider any number of alternate ownership approaches.

Likewise, I believe because of the success Paulding.com has and the assets in terms of branding in a viable test-community, those behind The Next Newsroom movement would be short-sighted if they failed to seriously consider this opportunity. This opportunity presents itself as one of comparatively low risk and great potential.

G. Patton “Pat” Hughes

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