The Tough Road to Running a Local News Website

Learning how to run a profitable, local, news website is an enigma to many, even those who have been in the news business for years.

Individuals struggling with this concept might learn a thing or two from a recent article in Editor & Publisher written by Hal DeKeyser, a reporter, photographer, opinion editor, columnist and publisher in the Phoenix area for 25 years.

In his article, DeKeyser suggests that this new era in news “offers the chance to run your own news operation without the big iron and distribution expense.” But DeKeyser also notes this new era also comes with numerous barriers and headaches.

He should know. He’s made several attempts at starting local news websites, including his current project,

In the E & P article, he outlines nine lessons he has learned along the way. Here are just four of those hard-learned lessons, as written by DeKeyser:

1. “Start slow. Our current beta site,, presents the full array of local information – schools, government, business, calendars – but not a lot of original reporting yet. It’s important to get the site up, running, noticed by the search engines, and begin creating local partnerships first.
2. “Create partnerships. With all the sites out there, plus good and halfhearted stabs at it by the newspapers still publishing, local entities won’t think they need you. Be valuable to organizations, businesses, schools, clubs, governments, and chambers. A media partner would be killer. Woodlands Online has a new partnership with CBS affiliate KHOU-TV, which plays on both of their strengths: being intensely local and regional.

3. “Tell the world, through social media, links, and e-mail blasts to opt-in registrants, getting your customers and partners to promote the site and its content, repurposing messages through as many pipelines as possible.

4. “Pick your niche and live it. For us, it’s local. Another site in the Phoenix area concentrates only on non-school youth sports. Some are business or areas of business, like real estate, or even more narrow niches, such as Hispanic women in business.”

Susan Cormier is the head coach in charge of training at the National Association of Citizen Journalists ( and co-author of the “Handbook for Citizen Journalists” (

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About The Author

NACJ trainer

Susan Carson Cormier is a co-founder of the National Association of Citizen Journalists and co-author of the "Handbook for Citizen Journalists." As the head coach at the NACJ, Cormier is in charge of training citizen journalists the basics in how to report and write news, sports and feature stories.

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02 2011


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