NEW YORK, NEW YORK — It’s no secret that many Americans are shamefully uninformed about their elected representatives, particularly at the local level. The blame for this can often go as much to local press as to citizens themselves, but thanks to Gotham Gazette, an online source for what’s happening in the world of NYC government, citizens of the nation’s largest metropolis will have to to blame something other than the media if they can’t name their borough president or the nuances of the latest bond issue.
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Published by the Citizens Union Foundation, a nonpartisan civic organization and government watchdog, the site offers extensive coverage of New York City primary and general elections, focusing on the issues in communities across the city as well as the candidates. Gotham Gazette also extensively covers New York’s City Council. The site’s “Who’s Running for What” section is a constantly updated resource providing information on every candidate running in both city and state elections. The site also offers a platform for city officials, advocates, and thinkers to present their views on issues facing New Yorkers with the blog “The Wonkster.” The blog tracks breaking city news, ongoing policy debates, and keeps an eye on what’s going on up in Albany.
Gotham Gazette’s roots go all the way back to 1999, when it began as a web portal providing links to useful information regarding elections and other civic issues. “We could have been a print publication,” says Gail Robinson, who has been with Gotham Gazette as a writer and editor since 2000 and became the site’s editor in chief in 2007. “We were only publishing once a month in the beginning.”
With Jonathan L. Mandell, editor in chief from 2000 to 2007, and later Robinson, his successor, at the reign, the site steadily branched into original reporting, adding blogs and breaking news throughout the week. In 2001, as the introduction of term limits led to a huge turnover in New York City government, the site was able to shine through its use of the web in providing focused, timely coverage of local elections.
Since then, Gotham Gazette has continued to grow year after year into a site that takes full advantage of its web platform by reacting to stories more quickly, producing more data journalism, and striving for increased interactivity through comment sections.
In January 2009, the site made a big leap into covering state government from an NYC-centric perspective by hiring a full-time reporter based in Albany. A big story for the Gazette has been the ongoing rent regulation debate, an issue largely overlooked because of the high-profile gay marriage fight in the state house. Explaining the site’s coverage, Robinson says: “It’s a mix; one key thing we’ve always wanted to be is serious, substantive but accessible. A lot of our readers are people who work for nonprofits, city employees, and our data is used a lot in classes in city universities.”
Gotham Gazette lost its full-time NYC reporter in June 2011. Although there are no immediate plans to hire a replacement, Citizen’s Union executive director Dick Dadey, who also serves as Gotham Gazette’s publisher, says that a new reporter will be hired “at some future date.” In the meantime, the Gotham Gazette editorial staff consists of Robinson and David King, the site’s man in Albany. The site also employs a full-time technical manager/ web producer. Gotham Gazette operates as a 501(c)3 nonprofit, relying mainly on operating grants from its publisher and other donors.
One of the site’s more innovative features is “Councilpedia,” a wiki page that gets citizens involved in providing up-to-date information on politicians and political contributions. The site also maintains several daily e-mail newsletters, and a healthy Twitter and Facebook presence round out the site’s social media efforts. Having grown alongside the web, Gotham Gazette is doing more now than ever to keep New York City’s citizens informed.
Gotham Gazette Data
Name: Gotham Gazette
City: New YorkConnor Boals (connorboals.com) is a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn. His work has appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and VeloNews.