The numbers are so big they don’t seem real.
Since our CityBeat reporter started two weeks ago, our web traffic has spiked. For the last quarter of 2022, we’d attract between 5,000-15,000 unique visitors per week. This week, so far, we’ve gotten more than 37,000 unique visitors to our website, almost all of them — about 66 percent — here for our coverage of Greensboro and Winston-Salem city councils.
I got to my computer Tuesday morning to check the web numbers, only to see that more than 250 people were on the site at that very moment, around 7 am. That’s not a record — we’ve had more than 1,000 people on the site at once before — but it was enough to shake me awake before the coffee pot had finished brewing.
So I feel pretty comfortable saying that at least one of our assumptions about local news — that people want more of it, not less — rings true.
And that’s the part that really floors me: We are not reinventing the wheel. City council coverage is a bedrock for local news, nuts-and-bolts stuff. When I became a news editor in Greensboro almost 20 years ago, reporters used to throw elbows to get council scoops, would scrum in the halls after meetings to nail down quotes from the voting members, goaded each other on social media — and before that, on the blogs — when we landed a big one before they did.
It’s all different now. Before Gale Melcher started the CityBeat at Triad City Beat, the only reporter who covered every single Greensboro City Council meeting was John Hammer of the Rhino Times, every word written from an unabashed conservative point of view. And while the Rhino once had a mighty and influential readership, most people in Greensboro under 40 years old have never heard of it. Neither of the daily newspapers in Greensboro and Winston-Salem have been regularly sending reporters to cover their city councils for years — though, if you notice, they started covering the decisions made there a little bit in the last week or so.
Ironically, now they don’t need to. Our CityBeat reporting, funded by a nonprofit, is free for anyone who cares to use it. That, friends, is the whole point: To inform people in our cities about the actions of local government. Maybe sooner or later they will come on board. But until then, we’re okay with keeping the traffic to ourselves.
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