Online news site hires pros

By Melanie Turner, Sacramento Business Journal, April 16, 2009

At a time when reporter layoffs and buyouts are the norm at newspapers across the nation, The Sacramento Press, an online “citizen journalism” site launched late last year by Castle Press LLC, is making its first investment in paid staff writers.
The Sacramento Press this week hired a full-time reporter, and plans to hire one more, each with a salary in the mid-$30,000 range. Kathleen Haley — who most recently worked for an environmental firm and has been published by the San Francisco Chronicle, Salon, AlterNet and the Associated Press — started working Monday for The Sacramento Press.
Managing editor David Watts Barton said the publication is still primarily driven by community journalists. He said the Web site aims to be something of a “hybrid” with a combination of professional journalists and community contributors.
Barton wants the two full-time reporters to anchor the site with “real quality journalism,” with coverage of business and development matters and city government, and hopes their stories inspire more involvement from community members.
“I think we’ll get better content the more people are involved,” Barton said.
More than 280 people are signed up to contribute to the site. Most comment, rate and tag content and photos on the site. About a quarter of the contributors are signed up to write. Of those, about 20 or 30 write once a week or so, co-founder Ben Ilfeld said.
The Sacramento Press has 10 full-time employees and four unpaid interns. In the past 30 days, the Web site has had 15,000 unique visitors and about 75,000 page views, Ilfeld said.
Castle Press, which owns the site, is not profitable, but has built up 20 advertisers since it began selling ads on The Sacramento Press in January. Ilfeld and co-founder and editor-in-chief Geoff Samek financed the startup and are using part of their initial investment to hire the reporters. They’ve declined to disclose how much they’ve invested.