In October of 2008, Jennifer Lord Paluzzi was laid off from her job as the Sunday editor at Metro West Daily News, a corporate-owned community newspaper. Instead of getting into marketing, she decided to fill a gap in coverage in her hometown and start a blog about Grafton, MA. Now, she is the editor if a group of community-based Web sites based in Central Mass called CentralMassNews.com.
Paluzzi, who lives in Grafton, was displeased by her local newspaper, which had “horrible production values” and printed “press releases, verbatim.” But the last straw came down to some big town news that was not being covered.
“I was a bit frustrated that I knew nothing about the proposed plans for a new high school,” she said. “I knew nothing about the overcrowding. We all depend on this weekly newspaper that doesn’t tell us crap.”
So she decided to do something about it. She started greatergrafton.com before she was laid off, but really vamped up her efforts when she had more time on her hands. She started with a wordpress blog, but wouldn’t be there for long.
“I would write about quirky things I found in town,” she said.
Then one day, Jack Skofield, who had worked for Monster doing ad sales, calls her up and wants to meet with her. During their conversation, she realizes that this is a job interview. He wanted her to expand her blog to a real website, and start covering other towns too. That is how the whole network of Central Mass News got started. The Greater Grafton blog was upgraded to graftontimes.com.
They now cover six towns, including Grafton, Millbury, Auburn, Leicester, Northbridge, and Shrewsbury. They also have a CMN sports blog. They have plans to expand to Northborough, Holden, and Westborough.
“We are the fastest growing media business right now,” she said. “And we are the only business in Massachusetts that is hiring writers.”
To cover the high school vote in Grafton, Paluzzi was live blogging, had a ticker going with the results within minutes of voting at the top of the page, and had a story ready for posting by the end of the meeting.
“We have video, we have photos,” she said. “If the town comes up with something, I can get it out there in seconds. Snowdays, big events, all on the ticker… We have our own YouTube Channel.”
Facebook is also a big part of their operation. Their Facebook fan page currently has 355 fans.They also link their Facebook to their Twitter accounts, so everything updates automatically.
“We use Facebook like you wouldn’t believe,” she said. “We are probably the only business that encourages their employees to go on Facebook at least 30 minutes a day.”
So for all of you struggling j-school grads, Paluzzi said she likes to hire people from the area. Check her out! She’s doing what we all should be doing.