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Monday, June 1, 2009

Greg Smith Buys Stake in PubliCola

Posted by on Mon, Jun 1, 2009 at 10:45 AM

I'm on vacation this week, but here's some Seattle media news that's too interesting to wait: Greg Smith, the green developer who considered a run for mayor earlier this year, has invested an undisclosed amount in PubliCola, the political news start-up launched in January by former Stranger staffers Josh Feit and Sandeep Kaushik.

Here's my story from the current Stranger that looks at how PubliCola and other local online news start-ups are doing. And here are the details released by Kaushik this morning:

Seattle (June 1) — PubliCola—the emerging Seattle news site known for its focus on politics and public affairs—announced today that prominent green developer Greg Smith has purchased a stake in the start-up venture.

“I have been following the site closely, and it's clear these guys are doing something different and exciting. The buzz around town is real — the smartest and most informed players in politics and government all tell me they're reading it,” Smith said. “PubliCola has real potential to develop into a site that is not only influential, but profitable. And I have some ideas about how to get there.”

The first question, of course, will be how the site—already full of interesting potential conflicts because of Kaushik's political consulting work—will handle the potential conflicts that come with being funded by a local developer. The second question: exactly how much did Smith put in?

The release doesn't answer either of these questions—though it does describe Smith as a "silent partner." I'll share more as I know more. Full statement from Kaushik in the jump.

UDPATE: Kaushik calls with answers. How will PubliCola handle the potential conflict of having Greg Smith as a financial backer?

Exactly the same way we handle my issues. Which is that I don't see or edit or otherwise control what Josh writes about candidates or political issues that I'm compromised on. That's going to be the same in terms of Greg's involvement in PubliCola. Josh is the editor of the site and he has the authority and the independence to write about anything without anyone else interfering. And I think we've seen in the coverage so far that Josh has been willing to criticize candidates that I work for and he's been willing to praise candidates that I don't work for. The proof is in the pudding on this stuff—it comes from doing good work that people respect.

And exactly how much money has Smith kicked in? No specifics from Kaushik, who would say only this:

It's infinitely more than we had before. It's enough that the site will be stable for some time to come, and we will have an opportunity to grow the site and extend the reach of our coverage.

Urban Visions CEO Greg Smith to Make Significant Investment in PubliCola

Must-Read Seattle Political News Site Will Build on Momentum with Expanded Coverage


Seattle (June 1) — PubliCola—the emerging Seattle news site known for its focus on politics and public affairs—announced today that prominent green developer Greg Smith has purchased a stake in the start-up venture.

“I have been following the site closely, and it's clear these guys are doing something different and exciting. The buzz around town is real — the smartest and most informed players in politics and government all tell me they're reading it,” Smith said. “PubliCola has real potential to develop into a site that is not only influential, but profitable. And I have some ideas about how to get there.”

The investment will fund a significant upgrade to the site, which was launched in January by former Stranger news editor Josh Feit and former Stranger news writer (and current political communications consultant) Sandeep Kaushik. In its five-month history, PubliCola has become a must-read site for insiders for its breaking news and political gossip.

PubliCola, about a week after its launch, was the first site to break the news of King County Executive Ron Sims’ decision to accept a position in the Obama administration. Soon after, PubliCola became the first online publication awarded an official press credential to cover the legislative session in Olympia, and in its cultural coverage recently broke new ground (and created significant buzz) by enlisting moviegoers at the Seattle International Film Festival to submit dozens of mini-reviews of SIFF movies to the PubliCola site via Twitter.

“We started this site from scratch with a few thousand bucks in donations to fill the void that's been left by scaled back newsrooms,” said Feit, PubliCola’s editor and lead writer. “The feedback has been great, and now, with Greg on board, we are ready to deliver even more— expanding our coverage and building our readership.”

In Greg Smith, PubliCola found a kindred spirit for its urban sensibility, progressive politics, and its willingness to break with convention.

“Greg's emphasis on sustainable development and creating a vibrant Seattle is a great fit. He’s engaged in the community and cares deeply about the future of our city. He gets it,” said Kaushik. “He’s more than just a silent partner. With his progressive values, proven business savvy and big-picture sensibility, he’s already added a new dimension to our strategic thinking about how to take PubliCola to the next level.”

With the new partnership in place, changes at PubliCola are in the works and further announcements will follow soon.

 

Comments (3) RSS

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Eli,

Thanks for this report. I think that conflicts of interest aren't as much of a problem in the online world as in print -- because access to online is so much greater than access to print.

If PubliCola coverage were to be skewed because of conflicts, someone else on another blog would call them out and readers could stop visiting the site. Also, the comment section of stories would light up with accusations of bias.

Thus, it's in PubliCola's best interest to NOT let conflicts influence the coverage because the Internet forces transparency.
Posted by Andrea James http://blog.seattlepi.com/aerospace on June 1, 2009 at 5:58 PM · Report this
2
I sort of wish this were a non-profit rather than for-profit model. At least that way greater transparency would be required about the financial infrastructure of this kind of new journalism. And it would less the potential for investors to make unreasonable demands because they see their money as investments to support their private interest rather than donations to promote the public interest.
Posted by Trevor on June 1, 2009 at 12:08 PM · Report this
w7ngman 1
"And I have some ideas about how to get there."

Does Smith know he's a silent partner?
Posted by w7ngman http://userscripts.org/users/89370 on June 1, 2009 at 11:57 AM · Report this

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