The Online Migration
BORAKS AND BURKINS They've seen the future of news, and that future is online.
Ex-Observer staffers David Boraks and Glen Burkins have launched hyperlocal Web sites. Welcome to the future of news
During his more than thirty years in journalism, David Boraks has worked for both local and national publications, including The Charlotte Observer. After spending a year in China with his family, he returned to Davidson in 2006 and, in the process of trying to get caught up on community news, he realized there was a void. He started filling it by creating a newsletter to report on news in Davidson. That quickly became a Web site. A year later he began exploring ways to generate revenue with DavidsonNews.net.
"There's a lot of talk out there about the Web being the future of local news," says Boraks, fifty. "With places like Davidson, I would say it's the present."
On DavidsonNews.net you'll find news on just about everything going on in Davidson, including business openings, coverage of local sports teams and performing arts groups, real estate, road construction, wedding announcements, obituaries, events, and stories that recap school and town board meetings. Boraks hired a part-time staffer to sell banner ads. He's also trying something slightly more experimental -- asking readers to make voluntary subscription payments "to help keep the site running."
"You could look at it as a donation, but this isn't a nonprofit," Boraks says. "Until now, I've been working pretty much for free and am just now able to make modest payments to myself. It offers some hope that providing news online can be profitable."
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When Glenn Burkins was deputy managing editor at the Observer, he oversaw the section chiefs. He says he would spend a lot of time talking to them about African American readers.
"I think mainstream media does a good job of writing about the African American community, but not for them -- there's a difference," says Burkins, forty-eight, who has also worked as a reporter for The Wall Street Journal and as a foreign correspondent for The Philadelphia Inquirer. After spending eight years at the Observer and seeing several layoffs at the paper last year, he took a buyout. In December he launched Qcitymetro.com, a site that focuses on news for African Americans in Charlotte.
Burkins and his wife, Patsy, are funding the site. There are currently a few ads, and he says their goal is to have it become totally ad supported. The site contains news stories on education, crime, religion, health, lifestyles, and even a little celebrity gossip -- all with an African American focus. In addition to the many articles he writes, he uses a team of interns, community columnists, and bloggers. "It's a challenge every day, but it's the most fun I've had in journalism," he says. And he's not trying to replace any of the other news publications.
"There are some things I don't imagine I'll ever be able to compete with The Charlotte Observer on, like breaking news. I want to see the Observer continue to be around for a very long time because we need them for things like being a watchdog for local government. I want to be a complement -- have things they won't."
Photo: BORAKS AND BURKINS They've seen the future of news, and that future is online.