It was as incongruous a situation as I could imagine. April 19 was one of the most gripping news days we have ever experienced in Massachusetts. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the younger of the suspected marathon bombers, was in hiding. Boston and several other cities were under voluntary lockdown. And that morning I was driving north, toward Haverhill, on my way to a meeting where earnest community activists were making plans to revive local journalism.
While all hell was breaking loose elsewhere, the Haverhill Matters Organizing Committee met in a sunny conference room at Haverhill Community Television. The committee’s goal is to launch a cooperatively owned news site to be calledHaverhill Matters sometime this year.
It’s been a long time coming. Tom Stites, a veteran journalist who’s worked at The New York Times and the Chicago Tribune, came up with the idea of local news co-ops a few years ago. He founded the Banyan Project to serve as an umbrella; Haverhill Matters will be the pilot. I wrote about his plans for the Lab last year, as well as in the epilogue to my forthcoming book about online community journalism, The Wired City. The launch date for Haverhill Matters has slipped a few times, but at this point it looks like 2013 will be the year.