NewsBlues, the local TV news job information site that printed anonymous and often critical letters from the belly of more than 200 newsrooms nationwide, shut down on Nov. 13. It will be revived at midnight Wednesday, thanks to popular demand and the intervention of good Samaritan Web publisher Doug Thompson.
"In the 48 hours after we pulled the plug, we received more than 1,400 positive e-mail messages and one negative," said NewsBlues co-founder Mike James.
James had stopped publishing after only three months, buried under the weight of more than 100,000 hits a day and the unhappy pressure of disseminating a growing amount of newsroom bile. NewsBlues' server couldn't handle the traffic, so he and partner Mona Scott abruptly shut down.
In stepped Thompson, founder and publisher of the irreverent daily news site Capitol Hill Blue.
"NewsBlues has a home on one of my servers for as long as Mike needs to get the site on its feet," Thompson said. "No strings, no fees, no rules. It's his to use as he sees fit. He has a site that makes people nervous. I like that."
Thompson, a former daily news reporter who works as a business and communications consultant, began CHBlue four years ago "to get back into daily writing and to raise some hell." The site has made a profit from ads for the last two years, and has spawned a half-dozen other publications.
"I started kicking the idea of free server space around a few months ago after watching too many good independent sites go dark (The Daily Muse, The Washed Update, etc.)," Thompson said. "When I talked to some of the site owners, they often said it was a case of just needing a little help or just a few bucks more or some help with design, cgi scripts, etc."
So Thompson set aside money to help "sites that are either struggling financially or would-be publishers who are just starting up." He set up two servers, and has now offered to help 23 sites. "Eleven are now either on-line or preparing for startup," he said.
"Doug Thompson has been a terrific help so far," James said. "We've transferred all the files over to a dedicated Windows NT server and have filed all the necessary paperwork with InterNIC."
The outpouring of reader support during the brief shut-down convinced the NewsBlues founders to change to a subscription model beginning Jan. 1, when readers will be asked to pay a $10 quarterly access fee. "Posters" will still be able to vent free of charge.
"NewsBlues was no longer 'ours,'" James explained. "It now belonged to the great unwashed masses of TV news. And that meant we had become 'employees.' And since we were now 'employees,' we figured we deserved a raise."
News Mait Travails
While NewsBlues rises from the dead, its original inspiration -- the print journalism job intelligence site News Mait -- is reeling from a series of setbacks.
The two-year-old site, which contains anonymous insider tips from newspaper offices (in addition to a handy salary survey and fine jobs links page), was wracked this past Saturday when the hard drive on its main computer failed.
"Almost all the work I have done to update the Intelligence section is scattered across the disk in fragmented files. Whatever caused the crash (it was not a virus) also affected my printer, modem and zip drive. Even my back up is damaged," wrote editor and publisher Maurice "Mo" Tamman, who also works as a full-time reporter for the daily Florida Today.
"This is a catastrophe," he said.
Meanwhile, News Mait's mailing list suffered a spam attack over the weekend, forcing Tamman to shut it down as well.
The bad luck comes on the heels of Tamman temporarily closing down the newspaper critique session Nov. 1, after an Editor & Publisher cover story on News Mait led to a dramatic increase in postings and vitriol.
Despite warnings against personal attacks, Tamman received postings from people calling their bosses, among other things, "syphilitic maniacs," E&P's mediainfo.com reported.
News Mait "is not there for people to urinate on someone else," Tamman told mediainfo.com before the computer troubles. "I'm not going to allow it to happen anymore."
Now with files scattered everywhere and a massive rebuilding job ahead of him, Tamman says News Mait faces an uncertain future.
"To be honest," he told his readers, "I don't know what I'm going to do next."
Both News Mait and NewsBlues have drawn criticism for trafficking in anonymous workroom bitching. But Thompson, and hundreds of thousands of readers, beg to differ.
"Both NewsBlues and NewsMait make interesting reading and irritate the
suits in the front office," Thompson said. "Most of the complaints I read
or heard come from people who take themselves far too seriously. What's
wrong with having a little fun?"