NEW YORK, NEW YORK — Transport-obsessed site
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The site was conceived when Naparstek approached LimeWire founder Mark Gorton, a fellow transportation advocate, with the idea to establish a startup covering transportation from ground-level issues like local bike lanes to larger scale issues like funding for New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority. The original pitch was to promote a New York that placed a higher priority on pedestrians, bikers, and public transit in general. Gorton responded favorably and became the site’s initial single benefactor and funder.
Streetsblog has since grown into a viable commodity, boasting nearly ten thousand daily readers in 2010, according to editor Ben Fried. In addition to appealing to those readers and others, the site aims to affect public policy. For example, a Streetsblog story about the abuse of police parking placards led to reform on an issue that contributed to traffic congestion in the city. The site continues to gain influence on policy issues, according to Fried, who says sources in government have told him the site has generated an interested readership among local officials in the cities it covers.
Streetsblog’s size and influence varies depending on the city in which you find it. San Francisco and New York currently each employ two full-time staffers with backgrounds in journalism. Streetsblog Los Angeles focuses more on advocacy issues and employs one full-time staffer. Funding from the Surdna Foundation has allowed for the hiring of a full-time reporter in Washington, D.C. to cover transportation issues on a national level.
Response to the site’s expansion into San Francisco has been particularly favorable, largely due to an existing advocacy constituency in the green-friendly Bay Area. Buoyed by that enthusiastic welcome, the site enjoys syndication in popular local outlets like SFGate, online home of the San Francisco Chronicle. Funding for the San Francisco site comes mostly from a single local benefactor, in addition to grants provided by the Wallace Global Fund and The Open Planning Project. Going forward, Streetsblog as a whole will be funded through a combination of national sponsorship, grant funding, national ads, and user donations.
Several sites have followed Streetblog’s lead—and Naparstek has embraced the newcomers. Streetsblog’s latest project, Streetsblog Network, acts as an umbrella site, aggregating literally hundreds of sites that focus on transportation issues. Fried believes that the strength of Streetsblog lies in its combination of advocacy and journalism. “We write for a community of interest, and we have specific policies that we favor editorially,” he says. “The goal is always to combine that with very high standards of journalistic accuracy. We’re going to try and make an argument with our reporting. In a way it’s even more incumbent on us to get the facts right.”
City: New York, N.Y., with additional locations in San Francisco, Calif., Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles, Calif.
Principal Staff: Aaron Naparstek, founding editor; Mike Gorton, publisher; Benjamin Fried, editor.
Affiliations: Wallace Global Fund; The Surdna Foundation; Open Planning Project.