Civil Beat, founded by entrepreneurs Randy Ching and Pierre Omidyar (who serves as its CEO and publisher), launched in May 2010. The partnership will give Civil Beat’s public affairs and policy coverage a larger audience, and give HuffPost’s new Hawaii vertical solid investigative and enterprise journalism along with the more typical HuffPost fare (the press release suggested “slideshows of Hawaii beaches,” “guides to local attractions,” and “blog posts from local residents”).
Civil Beat editor Patti Epler will also serve as the editor in chief of HuffPost Hawaii. She told CJR in an email that she’s “super excited about the new venture,” adding “I love being part of a healthy, happy newsroom. I imagine that’s hard to find these days.” She’d know: Epler edited and supervised a Pulitzer Prize-winning report in Arizona’s East Valley Tribune in 2009, only to become a victim of newsroom cuts by the time the award was announced. Epler declined to reveal the financial terms of the HuffPost-Civil Beat deal, but Omidyar wrote in his column that “any partnership has to make financial sense for both parties.” (Note: Omidyar funds the Democracy Project, which is a major supporter of CJR’s own United States Project, our politics and policy desk.)
Epler says HuffPost Hawaii will hire “two or three” editors to add that “typical HuffPost fare” to the Civil Beat content that will anchor the site. And, of course, local bloggers are always welcome to contribute. As Epler wrote on Civil Beat, HuffPost Hawaii will feature “shorter versions of some — not all — Civil Beat stories and blogs … But they will be limited and abbreviated, the sort of reader experience people from outside the state might find interesting and useful.” Civil Beat’s own site and coverage will remain unchanged, Epler says, except for a newsfeed from Huffington Post that will give readers a “quick read of stories from Hawaii and beyond.”
Epler says she’s not sure how the joint effort began, but Omidyar and Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington have “known each other for a long time” and “share many of the same values” vis-a-vis the importance of journalism and community engagement, she said. The Huffington Post has done this kind of thing before with its foreign verticals (the recently launched HuffPost Japan, for instance, is a partnership with Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun), though this is its first in America.
If it all works out as both organizations hope, it’s a great way for The Huffington Post to create bureaus out of existing smaller news organizations, both extending HuffPost’s coverage and building up the outlets that anchor it. With news bureaus disappearing all over the country (with the exception of Al-Jazeera), it’s more important than ever to preserve reporting from journalists who know an area, its nuances, and its people. It’ll be interesting to see how this model does in America, and if it spreads to more states and cities (HuffPost currently has verticals for eight US cities, each staffed by two or three editors, but those function more like collections of content that happens to be relevant to those areas rather than standalone efforts).
Epler says her Civil Beat coworkers are excited: “Our newsroom is really jazzed about this and the reporters are very engaged in helping to figure out the new site and how to keep distinguishing Civil Beat from other local media.”
“And you can’t beat the weather.”