Thursday, September 4, 2014

Go Local Go Nowhere?

As a columnist in Southern California and New England for the past year and a half, I learned to expect that making one's way in the new media markets can be difficult, if not innerving. Print journalism is in decline, not just because of technology per se, but now the current leadership has the easy reach to compare and criticize content from different newspapers.

Nevertheless, newspaper firms still have the slight capital edge, since they still crank out the print, although the content and the influence of the paper press is nothing like it was in times past.
 What has happened? Beside the technology revolution, the myth of media objectivity is dying a horrible, public death. exposes the immigration crisis along the Southern US borders, and predicts the collapse of Major Leader Eric Cantor's reelection chances. What about the New York Times and the other Beltway periodicals? They are crowning Hillary Clinton the next President of the United States, the same abysmal Secretary of State who made very little difference in the office, aside from shouting "What difference does it make?" about the deaths of four diplomats at the US Embassy in Benghazi, Libya.

Other national papers, like the Los Angeles Times, spend more time ranting about Donald Sterling's personal and financial problems. How many people really want to read about the hidden perversions of a rich, yet morally bankrupt philanthropist who does not like "black people"?  Apparently, fewer and fewer, as the LA Times' market share is declining, and another LA based paper, the Los Angeles Register, has emerged. Not just prompting its coverage of more local events, the editors declared without hesitation their center-right bent. Not just pushing the news that fits our interests, but news which fits a different political slant, too.

An off-shoot of the Libertarian Orange County Register, the LA Register (and also the Long Beach Register) have been expanding their operations even while other papers are facing decline and irrelevancy.

Online Media like Breitbart (and the Huffington Post) are open about their political leanings, and another media market in New England, Go Local, edged into the media mix, hoping to edge out the Providence Journal as redefine content and media in the region.

How did a California conservative get caught up in Go Local Prov and Worcester, anyway?
At the outset, at least, Fenton was not just open to new ideas, but new writers, including a conservative activist from California.

I reached out to Go Local Prov in January 2013, with the expressed interest of getting a Fifty-State GOP strategy in gear, starting with New England, where the Republican Party is either dead (per local bloggers in Massachusetts) or on life support (Rhode Island, where one vote divided the winner and loser of the 2013 Chairmanship)

Why not stir up some support there?

Fenton received my first piece, and even came up with a great title: "Roger Williams would be a Republican in Rhode Island."

The article not only got traffic from the readership, but the liberal-progressive blog RI Future took a few jabs at the piece.


I submitted a few more columns over the next few months. After a month hiatus, Josh contacted me:

We missed you. Would you like to start writing weekly for Go Local Prov?

I jumped at the chance to write nationally as well as locally, enough that I submitted separate pieces for Providence as well as Worcester.

After that, the line of communication developed more strongly with one of the editors, and Fenton became more distant, or in the words of one of the editors, "Not involved in content."


Communication and feedback are very important to writers, and an editor/CEO needs to care about the staff beyond hoping that they turn in something on time.

Fenton never promised to pay me anything, but I did submit my resume from time to time to offer services in other capacities. With Go Local as my calling card, I got the attention of local Congressmen and Senators, as well as local officials (like a member of Warwick City Council as well as PR firms in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Sadly, local leaders paid more attention to me than my own CEO.

For all the work I was doing (all the way from California, mind you), Josh never said "Thank You", let alone offer me a paying job.

When I shared another post with another media site, he sent me an abrupt email:

You can't write for that medium and Go Local. I am a little insulted that you didn't contact me first.
For the record, I had tried contacting Fenton regarding the rules of participation in other websites. Nothing.

Then I learned that two other editors, some of the paid staff, were also quitting Go Local. I realized that I was not the only victim of this disrespect. Not only was Josh not paying people on time, but a growing frustration with arrogance and an unwillingness to listen to others was creating a mass exodus of staff away from the media site.

Emailing my resignation, I told Fenton that he needed to treat his writers with respect, listen to their concerns and value their contributions.

I wonder if he will learn the lesson, since he was so good at analyzing the failure of other media firms. After AOL's experiment in local media,, announced massive restructuring due to massive profit losses, Go Local CEO Josh Fenton dissected its demise, from poor investment in wealth communities, where little gripping news takes place, to improper economies of scale, placing an excessive number of reports in one city, instead of balancing resources and investments for better reporting.
Another reason stood out: good content.

Who wants to read about knitting clubs or the next sobriety check in your hometown, anyway? That's neither news nor newsworthy.

There was another lesson, however, which Fenton forgot, and which may inadvertently contribute to Go Local going nowhere.

Content is not manufactured by fiat, but from writers, columnists, friends, relatives, cranks, kooks, and the elite.

In other words: people.
  And they have to be treated with respect and honor.

Employers have to provide a good product or service, but they have to treat the people working for them as a prized commodity, too. As media consumption chances, and technology forces editors and writers to be open and honest about their reporting, the leaders in this news revolution need to remember that the news fits and gets printed because of the people working for them.

Some things, like workplace decency, don't change. Fenton failed to learn that lesson, and Go Local will go nowhere, but one setback has not stopped from going elsewhere and finding more opportunities in this growing industry.

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