It started as a lark and grew into a passion. Something that consumed my mind day and night. After years of tinkering and testing we figured out how to do it — how to deliver the news, without the paper.
The Neotribune is a new model for putting journalists back into small towns. If you look around, you will see that most small towns lack any news coverage at all. Some are claimed by larger community newspapers nearby, but receive very little coverage.
In Italy, Texas — where this all started — I can count on one hand the number of times a reporter came from the county newspaper. Yet we found hundreds of stories to cover.
Think about it. If you search the Internet for a celebrity or a politician, there are thousands of news articles about them. Probably more than they would like. But can you find the names of the city council members of your town? Can you read what happened at the last school board meeting? Have you seen any photographs of the school play?
For thousands of towns in America the answers to these questions are no. If people don’t go to the city council, school board, or play they don’t get to really know what’s going on.
We started the Italy Neotribune for these very reasons. It was a part-time endeavor with just a few of us getting the news and publishing online. We discovered that this was only the tip of the iceberg.
There were problems in the city government and school administration. There were unsung heroes and others working against the will of the people.
And most importantly, we found that the fundamental principles of journalism are as important now as they have ever been.
Towns need the news to inform the people and watch over the city. They need journalists who are responsible to do the hard work of reporting.
And the journalists need to be paid.
We tried a few early experiments in advertising. They clearly did not give enough return to be worth the effort. It is a serious problem. You cannot sustain quality journalism on ideals alone. Reporters have lives and need compensation for their work.
But there wasn’t enough income from current models of online advertising.
We tried several other ideas as we continued with our day job at the Monolithic Dome Institute. Eventually I moved to Logan, Utah to be closer to a fantastic programming community and started on programming several projects.
But I kept coming back to the Neotribune. How do we solve the problem of paying for it? We wrote a content management system for the Italy Neotribune and Monolithic.com which made it far easier to handle photographs with stories.
We also tried another experiment in advertising which was more promising. But still not enough.
Then in April, while brainstorming with a few friends, we figured it out. It’s so simple and elegant. Why didn’t we see it before? I guess that’s the nature of coming up with something new.
Finally, we are going ahead with the Neotribune.