Thanks for your note. Happy to respond to your questions.
I founded WestportNow in March 2003 because I saw a need for a real-time news and information source for Westport. As you know, we have two local newspapers that publish Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, leaving a large gap in coverage, particularly of weekend events. As an elected public official (member of the Representative town Meeting since 1991 and moderator since 1995), I also saw a public safety need for conveying information in real time, especially since 9/11.
I set out to create a digital record of daily life in Westport at the beginning of the 21st century. But I also knew that with an increasing number of people getting news from online vs. newspapers, there was a growing opportunity to put a digital stake in the ground for local news coverage. The weekly newspapers have a built-in conflitct -- they cannot post their content in real-time because it would inevitably eat in to their print sales.
I have no such problem. Also, with the proliferation of digital cameras, the time was ripe to recruit citizen journalists, as they are now called, to contribute news and photos to WestportNow. At the end of 2005, we publisherd a year-end review that included contributions from more than 60 photographers.
WestportNow is intended for Westporters or anyone else interested in news and information about Westport. This includes those who live in Westport. those who are away (college students, daily commuters, etc), those who have lived in Westport, those who want to live in Westport, and even those who wished they lived in Westport.
WestportNow is not a blog in the traditional sense, or at least in the sense that people have come to think of blogs (one person expressing opinions about something). The only thing blog-like about WestportNow is its use of blog software -- cheap, easy to use, and with content posted in chrnological order.
People often ask me whether WestportNow is a blog. I tell them I don't mind people calling it whatever they like as long as it gains attention for the publication. (I applied for credentials to the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston as a blogger and obtained them. I did not "blog" like others, but was grateful for the access blog credentials provided.)
I indeed have tried to keep our "editorial voice" to a minimum. Essentially, I edit WestportNow like the news columns of a newspaper -- balanced, down-the-middle coverage of events with no slant. That has contributed mightily to WestportNow's success and its credibility.
The fact that I have been an elected town official for 14 years and am currently the Democratic candidate for first selectman has made me especially sensitive to accusations of bias and using WestportNow to promote my own agenda. In every story that mentions me (which I tty to keep to a minimum) there is an editor's note that identifies me as WestportNow editor and publisher.
I have decreed that there will be no WestportNow coverage of the local municipal election other than a few pictures of the candidates announcing their candidacy, debating and giving election night results.
I can't tell you how many people have told me that they love WestportNow so much that they would not vote for me if I decided to suspend it during my election campaign for first selectman.
I am proud that WestportNow has been repeatedly cited by national publications as a model of excellence in hyperlocal Internet journalism. Just this past weekend, the Connecticut section of The New York Times referred to us as the "gold standard" for news and information blogs in the state. The Online Journalism Review of the University of Southern California this week referred to WestportNow as the "most news-filled site" of its recent survey of local Internet publications.
Hope this helps. Come back at me with any further questions.And if your class wants me to come to Hartford to do a little q and a, I'd be delighted to do so -- schedule permitting.