Why we started a newspaper

Guest post by Robert Dickson & Kirk Ross, The Carrboro Citizen

Hello friends at Orange Politics,

Last October, a group of community journalism students interested in the idea of a Carrboro newspaper interviewed roughly 100 residents of the town. One of the questions asked whether residents would prefer an online only publication or would prefer a print edition as well. Only one person who responded said online only, and everyone else said they wanted a newspaper they could hold in their hands.

Since November, we have been diligently researching and pursuing such a possibility. We got some great advice and a lot of support and can't thank enough everyone who offered counsel. So, having assembled a business plan we can live with and a working office, we're willing to roll the dice and on March 21 The Carrboro Citizen makes its debut.

We took our cues from Carrboro. Our plan calls for a "sustainable community newspaper." For us, that means body and soul--a newspaper we can believe in, a work environment we can thrive in and enough success to keep it moving. We know that to make that happen we have to listen to our readers. Since it is our hope that people reading OP will also become readers of the Citizen, we'd like to know what you'd like to see when you open the paper or click on the web site. In addition to ideas on content and coverage, we also would like some advice on how best to serve the area.

To get things rolling, here's one specific question: How would you like to get your Carrboro Citizen?

Background: One of the more interesting results of applying the concept of sustainability to the paper was in distribution. For starters, it was clear that throwing one in every driveway was right out. Home delivery, though, is an important part of any community newspaper. It also makes sure the paper is accessible to people who for one reason or another can't get one from a rack or at a local business.
Since the paper will be free, creating a sustainable home delivery system is a bit of a chore. Working in our favor is that Carrboro is a densely-packed town.
The plan for now is to offer free home delivery within the town limits (pretty much the 27510 area code plus Northside and the neighborhoods north of Hillsborough Road. We'd then try to add other neighborhoods interested in home delivery to the system.
If you have ideas on distribution or anything else, leave 'em here, send us an email or dial 942-2100 and let us know what you think.


Robert Dickson
Kirk Ross



Congrats guys. How about a box or two in Chapel Hill?

I'm sure we'll have 'em. Plus, we'll be in local stores and shops in the big city.
And maybe a special home delivery route to the Raymond residence.

Are you looking for advertisers?

since we're in shameless promotion mode, I'll just say hell yeah we're looking for advertisers.
The Citizen will be a free distibution newspaper and will live predominantly on advertising revenue. We've got Mary Beth Bardin (you'll know her from the WSM checkout when you see her) handling sales for us and she'd love to talk to anyone about the value of a community newspaper.

So what should I tell prospective advertisers who wish to purchase advertising?

Good luck, guys. Can't wait to say I knew you way back when.



We're at 942-2100. Operators are standing by.

Mary Beth is mary beth at carrboro citizen dot com

Hey Citizen-Journalists:
How can I get a paper route?

Mail subs? I'm in W-S and I'd like to get your paper.

To the Chapel Hill Citizen citizens:

Nice going on great ambitions for fulfilling a significant local mission.

I have walked/plodded in your shoes, albeit 50 years ago and applaud you

Thank you for the opportunity to receive delivery.

Good luck to The Citizen. The more voices, the better.

And don't forget the Carrboro Commons, the online student newspaper for Carrboro. Consider it a companion to the Citizen, not a rival. Jock Lauterer's class does the reporting, photography and Web site, and my students edit the stories and design the print edition, available for download thanks to .pdf technology.

A new issue is set to be posted this week at www.carrborocommons.org

actually the Commons and the Citizen might be considered twins, being as how they were conceived more or less at the same time. We're really excited about working with Jock's and Andy's classes in delivering more and better news and features about Carrboro. Look for selected Commons stories to appear in the pages of the Citizen.
And I'd like to say thanks to Roland for his comments. Folks like Roland and my father Paul were (are?) real community journalists and leave some big shoes for Kirk and me to fill.

As one who covered Carrboro for the Chapel Hill Herald, I offer my "Amen, Brother" to the rest. Long under-appreciated for its impact and valued leadership in the area, Carrboro is VERY worthy of this venture.

I'd suggest that in the most densely populated areas you create "drop boxes" and leave it to residents (in those very walkable communities) to pick 'em up. This keeps you off the sh*t list of those who vacation and don't want them piling up in the driveway. (An irksome thing about the Chapel Hill News) Being Carrboro, you'll like want to put a recycle bin right next to it.

Hold a "Share your Copy" contest to collect the most creative ideas for spreading the paper around.

Make sure you supply home-health workers with a supply to bring to seniors/disabled who can't get them easily (especially low income folk). These can be devoted readers and letter-writers. With them, you might also consider a citizen history project to help establish your paper as the historical record of the community.

Bravo! Can't want to see the paper and support its growth. More Voices = Better Town

P.S. Get 'em into every school.

Thanks Jean

Stop by and see us sometime.


Thanks for the invite, Kirk. I look forward to doing just that. Very exciting!

New local independent paper - introducing Carrboro Citizen

There used to be two big independent papers in the Triangle: Spectator and Independent. The former was full of information about local events, movies, restaurants. The latter had some of the best political and social writing anywhere. Then, several yea...

Congrats to Kirk and co! The paper looks great, nice mix of articles and pretty much all my favorite advertisers. I definitely learned a few things.

And, in just one issue, they've raised the bar on coverage of town government. We'll see if the competition can keep up.


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