NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – Friends, advertisers, staff, supporters and local dignitaries came out in force Wednesday night to help TheAlternativePress.com celebrate its fourth anniversary.
Former Governor Richard Codey was among the speakers at the festivities, held at Creative Wallcoverings and Interiors of New Providence. Catering was provided by Towne Deli. Many other local officials also attended to offer their support for the online, hyperlocal news publication.
TheAlternativePress.com was started in 2008 by Michael and Lauryn Shapiro of New Providence, who were looking for a way to connect local people with news in their town, and to help local businesses connect with residents.
The result has become an example and successful model of hyperlocal journalism throughout New Jersey, and one that was widely praised during Wednesday’s party. Shapiro, in his welcoming comments, told attendees about TheAlternativePress.com’s licensing program, in which residents in various towns run the publication in their town as their own business. "We are creating incubators of entrepreneurship and enabling people to start their own The Alternative Press for their own town as their own business," Shapiro said. It helps create jobs and expands TheAlternativePress.com’s reach, and Shapiro announced plans to take The Alternative Press national through licensing in the near future.
Various licensees were in attendance, and Shapiro introduced Cynthia Cumming, who began licensing West Orange last summer to great success, and Jeff Curley, who recently began licensing West Essex.
Jim Lonergan, former President of TheStreet.com and current interim COO for The Alternative Press expressed the opportunity The Alternative Press has in the marketplace.
“I believe deeply in local news, and with connecting readers and businesses,” Lonergan said. “The opportunity to take what’s good business and a good model and go national with it is exciting.”
Curley said in the two weeks since he began licensing West Essex, the response has been “phenomenal,” in part due to the local support of Codey. He introduced the former governor, who said he also has a strong belief in local media.
Codey lamented “gaps” in news coverage during recent years, due to budget cuts and newspaper downsizing, but pointed out that online, hyperlocal news organizations are the way towns are getting back to the old days of local coverage.
“People want to know what’s going on in their town,” Codey said, adding that in years gone by, politicians cared what the local papers wrote about. These days, they don’t even subscribe. “That’s where you come in,” he said to Shapiro.
The Alternative Press, he said, is bringing that kind of journalism back. He used the example of the Hurricane Sandy aftermath, when he was called by Caldwell’s mayor to help deal with residents who were powerless, cold and angry. Codey helped field phone calls, helped communicate with the utility, and ultimately was there when the power came back on.
Curley wrote an article in The Alternative Press, and Codey said the deluge of phone calls and email he got thanking him for his help was all the proof he needed that local journalism works.