The featured TAPinto franchisee for the month of April 2020 are journalism professors Rich and Anne Lee from St. Bonaventure University, who, together with their students, operate TAPinto Greater Olean. TAPinto Greater Olean is owned by St. Bonaventure University's Jandoli School of Communication.
Q. Why did you want to franchise a TAPinto site?
We were familiar with TAPinto (going back to The Alternative Press). We teach an experiential journalism class that is dedicated to covering the communities that surround St. Bonaventure University. The course had started in Fall 2014, using a WordPress site. It was clunky, and we wanted an easier-to-use platform that also came with tutorials for our students.
Q. You have an interesting background. Can you tell us about it a little bit?
Interestingly, our younger daughter, who is an optometrist with the Buffalo, New York, area LensCrafters, has taken to watching the COVID-19 press conferences with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and with Erie County Executive Mark Polancarz and she called to say that she has renewed respect for what we have both done career-wise with newspaper work and government communication and the teaching of those professions to college students.
After graduation from St. Bonaventure in 1975, Rich worked for five years for a weekly newspaper, The Montclair Times, then spent 18 months with Mutual of New York at its in-house employee newspaper. He did not like corporate work, so took a job with The Aquarian Weekly, which gave him the opportunity to interview and write about the contemporary musicians, including Peter Tosh, Boy George, Jerry Garcia, Pat Benatar, Phil Collins and Steven Tyler. His work with The News Tribune in Woodbridge intersected his Aquarian years; he built up Union County circulation for the News Tribune, became a general assignment reporter, then New Jersey State House reporter and covered both the Democrat and Republican conventions in 1988. In 1990, he was recruited by the Democrats in the New Jersey Assembly to be a public information officer, and in 1992 he began a 10-year job as public information officer in Woodbridge while Jim McGreevey was mayor. He volunteered on both of McGreevey's gubernatorial campaigns and his state Senate campaign, and was a Deputy Communications Director in the governor’s office from January 2002 to June 2005 while McGreevey was governor and. Richard Codey was acting governor. His next job lasted six years; he was the founding director of the Hall Institute of Public Policy-NJ. He left that job to return to St. Bonaventure, his alma mater, as an assistant professor in the Jandoli School of Communication, in 2011. He has since completed a PhD in media studies from Rutgers University, been promoted to associate professor, and founded the Jandoli Institute, a public policy organization.
Anne, a 1976 graduate of St. Bonaventure, spent one year as a women's editor and feature writer at The Amsterdam (New York) Recorder, west of Albany. From late 1977 through the end of 2001, she was employed by Dorf Feature Service, an independent bureau that supplied The Star-Ledger and other Newhouse newspapers with a significant amount of content. In 1989, she was the lead editor in the establishment of In the Towns, a series of weekly community publications that appeared in the Thursday editions of The Star-Ledger. From 2004 to 2006, Anne was a public information officer for the Mercer County Executive's Office.
Both Lees started their teaching careers as adjuncts at Mercer County Community College. Rich also taught the required Media and Government course at Rutgers. Anne, who holds a master's in library science from Pratt Institute, held jobs as a reference librarian, writing tutor and mentor to students with intellectual disabilities. She is a lecturer in the Jandoli School and the assistant director of St. Bonaventure's Francis E. Kelley Oxford Program, which is in residence at Trinity College.
Q. What do you enjoy covering the most in Olean?
Our students cover news regularly and have been at forefront of some the major stories in our region, but the stories that resonate most with our readers have been personality profiles. People enjoy reading about those they know in the communities we cover.
Q. Is TAPinto full time for you? If not, what do you also do?
We both are full-time faculty members at St. Bonaventure University. We team-teach a course called Journalists’ Workshop in which students staff TAPinto Greater Olean. We each teach other classes, but Journalists’ Workshop dominates our schedules because we are committed to keeping TAPinto Greater Olean current, even when school is not in session.
Q. How do you think businesses and readers can best utilize TAPinto Greater Olean? What advantages does TAPinto have that other marketing platforms lack?
Our coverage of the coronavirus pandemic has shown the value we provide to readers. We have posted dozens of stories informing readers of closings, cancellations, health care updates and more. Readers have let us know how valuable an information source TAPinto Greater Olean is during this crisis. We’ve even been told by one of the region’s major employers that our coverage is helping guide the organization’s decision-making.
In addition to our reporting, TAPinto Greater Olean has one of the strongest social media presences in the area.
Q. What are some of your business strengths? What’s something you would like to work on?
St. Bonaventure has one of the best journalism programs in the nation. As professors/editors, we work closely with our students/staff to ensure that every story we post is well-written, accurate and engaging.
Since we launched TAPinto Greater Olean in 2016, we have been focused on producing quality journalism and building an audience. Now that we have a sizeable number of readers, we want to begin generating revenue through advertising.
Q. Describe the TAPinto culture.
We run our class, Journalists’ Workshop, like a newsroom. We are the professors, but we function as editors, and the students are our staff. Students take two semesters of the course. We give them more responsibility in the second semester. They take on greater roles in planning, management and operations.
Q. What are your goals at TAPinto? Any future plans for TAPinto Greater Olean?
In the fall, we collaborated with our campus television station, SBU-TV, for a live televised debate between state senate candidates and a live election night report. We did a live report on the March 10 primaries and planned to do more before the coronavirus pandemic hit. In the future, we would like to do more collaborations with the television station and other campus media organizations.
Q. Is there anything else you'd like to say?
TAP has been a great success at St. Bonaventure. Not only are we providing needed news coverage for local communities, but our students are gaining experience that helps them win journalism awards, gain prestigious scholarships and get jobs after they graduate.