Tuesday, October 23, 2007

It's a good time to start a newspaper, at least for two veteran news types in Carrboro, N.C.

With all the dire news about newspapers these days, some might think it's a bad time to start one. Maybe not, if you're in the right place at the right time with the right concept. Kirk Ross and Robert "Bubba" Dickson, left, started The Carrboro Citizen last March in an upscale town of about 17,000 that adjoins Chapel Hill, N.C., population 50,000 or so.

Dixon, from a publishing family, is the publisher of the weekly paper. Ross, a longtime local journalist, is the editor. He told Leonard Witt of the Public Journalism Network (PJNet) that they are already making money. "We've had a lot of great responses," he said. "A lot of people are getting behind the paper. Our advertising is jumping up, and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that we're just going back to basics; we’re not trying to do the unusual; we’re trying to do the usual, well -- or what used to be the usual."

Ross said he and Dickson "started it, in a way, to begin to experiment with what would a newspaper -- a weekly, community newspaper -- look like in the 21st Century." he said the business model for metropolitan daily papers "is going the way of the buffalo" while smaller, community papers are doing well because "They're taking care of their community, they're focusing on their community and they're not trying to be all things to all people."

Ross said building the paper's Web site was relatively easy: "I lived through the transition of molten lead to offset [printing], and if you went through that you learn not to fear technology." For the story and video interview by Witt, Robert D. Fowler Distinguished Chair in Communication at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, click here.

The idea for the paper developed from lectures that Dickson and Ross gave to the journalism classes of Jock Lauterer, director of the Carolina Community Media Project at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The students developed an online paper, Carrboro Commons, and Dickson produced a printed edition of the paper on the press of his family paper, The News-Journal in Raeford, about 80 miles to the south. Students decided they wanted to focus on the online product, but a survey showed overwhelming support in Carrboro for a printed paper, Ross said in an interview with The Rural Blog, so he and Dickson took the plunge. Stories from the student site are made available to the paper. For the student site's announcement of the Citizen, click here. For Lauterer's story about helping with the first issue of the new paper, click here. (Commons photo by Justin Smith)

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