Today, Brick Shorebeat turns one year old, and I am supremely humbled and gracious for the support I’ve received from our township over the past 12 months.
Over the past year, we’ve published 1,101 articles telling Brick’s story. Today, I’d like to pause for a moment to tell Shorebeat’s story and renew a commitment I made to each and every Brick resident a year ago.
Many of us first became introduced nearly five years ago, when I was hired as the founding editor of Brick Patch. How that site grew was almost magical. We did what few had been able to do around here – create a publication from scratch, cover hard news, jump head-first into the township’s ever-crazed world of politics and tell Brick Township’s story on a daily basis. Brick Patch was the crown jewel of the company under AOL’s ownership – a high-traffic, profitable enterprise that engaged its community to an extent that was almost unheard of in local media – but the network of approximately 900 sites, as a whole, faltered. In February 2014, controlling interest in the company was sold to an investor, and the staff was cut by about 85 percent overnight. I was one of about five or six people who remained with the company in New Jersey, but six months later, the magic just wasn’t there anymore.
High-quality local news had given way to BuzzFeed-like links to random stories from California, Florida or elsewhere. Headlines became exaggerated in a bid for more “clicks,” news stories sensationalized, edicts from managers ran increasingly counter to my editorial philosophy, and even interpersonal relationships became strained under the stress. It was time to go.
I built the physical Shorebeat site about a year before it launched as rumbles circulated within Patch about the company’s financial difficulties and potential layoffs. Much of it was built in a marathon all-nighter sitting at my kitchen table. My ultimate last day at Patch was a Wednesday and Shorebeat launched the following Monday. I was back to where I was four years earlier, starting a new publication and hoping to build trust and a good reputation in the community. Fortunately, I had the support of an amazing group of folks I had met over the course of the past three-and-a-half years behind me, a business community and Chamber of Commerce that goes out of its way to help the new kid on the block, and government officials who embraced us rather than brushed us off as a new website.
Brick consistently amazes me. The generosity, friendliness and support that residents of this town have for one of their own is astounding. We’re a town of more than 80,000, made up of people who live in modest apartments and oceanfront estates, young families and senior citizens, Mets, Yankees and Phillies fans, but somehow a “small town” mentality remains – even if highways, bridges and traffic jams sometimes get in the way.
Over the past year, more than 475,000 people have visited us 1,027,115 times, reading 1,460,571 pages of local news. About 100,000 people read our site every month, a testament to how much Brick residents care about what’s happening in their town.
We recently expanded to a second site, are doubling up our efforts to attract local advertisers and are introducing an interactive business directory. But at our core, the news will always come first. We promise to be fair, cover everything we can, and do it in a way that is informative and engaging without being sensationalized or unethical.
Thank you so much for coming along with us on our journey doing something new with local news over the past year, and we know the next will be even more exciting!