You’ve got to figure if anyone is going to lead the local revolution in the newspaper space it is going to be The Washington Post. To me, the paper signaled its seriousness about getting hyperlocal when it hired two of its big guns: Adrian Holovaty and Rob Curley.
But Holovaty, the father of computer data journalism with chicagocrime.org, left a while back to create Everyblock. And now Curley, who was put in charge of The Post’s effort to create local editions in outlying communities, has just left after 20 months to join the Las Vegas Sun — the lesser half of the Las Vegas Joint Operating Agreement that essentially puts out a “daily magazine,” as Curley calls it.
Curley hasn’t moved to Vegas empty-handed either. He took nine people — a huge chunk of his skunkworks team from The Post. Apparently, the export was done with The Post’s blessing. An intimidatingly good spinner –his clear vision of where local can go has played a huge role in his efforts, winning numerous local media awards over the years — Curley calls the Sun “easily one of the most interesting local media operations in the nation.” He notes that owner Greenspun Media also has TV stations and an alternative newsweekly to Webify.
I don’t know the real reason(s) why Curley left, although he says on his blog that he wasn’t the best fit for The Post. The company has just had a round of major buyouts of editorial staff and cost cutting may have had something to do with it. The Post has a new publisher, Katharine Weymouth, and Curley’s departure may be part of a new direction.
Curley asserts in his blog that The Post management stood behind him in his efforts. Chairman Don Graham, who is related to Weymouth, even drove out to distant Loudon County to meet with the schools superintendent when a joint effort hit a snag. He says Graham also helped with the launch of the newspaper’s Facebook app.
Alternatively, there could have been dissatisfaction on all sides with last fall’s launch of LoudounExtra.com, a nice community effort but without any special features that stand out. The second effort from the team, Fairfax Extra, is slated to launch in a few weeks.
LoudounExtra purports to go deeper than The Post’s section with a restaurant guide, a calendar, a school guide, photo galleries, a house of worship guide and a moving center. It also has a couple of traffic Web cams and two local blogs.
But numerous promised features are still in development, including community publishing tools and databases of home sales and building permits. I don’t know the actual circumstances. It does seem like Curley and his team had enough time to get it done.
Meanwhile, The Post says it is going full steam ahead with hyperlocal. Publisher Weymouth, in a staff memo republished by Washington City Paper, said that “while we are sad to lose Rob, our commitment to the communities we serve is as strong as ever.”