Planet Princeton Turns Five: A Note to Readers

It’s hard to believe that it has been five years since Planet Princeton went from Facebook page to website.

I started the Facebook page in 2011 to post tidbits about Princeton that I couldn’t find a home for as a freelancer covering the area. I was thinking about creating a local news website and had been testing out a beta site, then Hurricane Irene happened. I figured if the power went out during the storm, the only source people would have for information would be their cell phones. I posted information on Facebook and Twitter non-stop for a week with the help of readers, who generously crowd-sourced information, photos and videos. I began posting regularly on the website in late September of that year. Since then, the website has grown gradually, both in terms of the number of post and frequency of posts, and in readership. From Jan. 1 of 2016 until Sept. 20, Planet Princeton has received than 1.4 million page views, and we still have three months left in the year.

Planet Princeton today is a mix of breaking news, government and schools coverage, events, photos, letters to the editor, and accountability reporting. Several of our stories have been picked up in national and international media outlets. We routinely file public records requests and write about open government, and we have won two public records lawsuits seeking information in the public’s interest. Running Planet Princeton has been a great experiment full of ups and downs, but I have few regrets in spite of the challenges.

What has been accomplished so far could not have been done without the support of readers. I am grateful to all the people who have shared information, offered news tips, sent notes of encouragement, provided us with public records and other documents, entered events in our community calendar, written posts for the site, helped spread the word via social media, and supported us financially.

These are difficult times in the media business as news companies continue to consolidate and lay off reporters. I have a deep concern about the lack of accountability reporting at all levels, but especially at the local, county and state level, particularly in the Garden State. Who will be the government watchdog as the press corps continues to shrink? My hope is that Planet Princeton will be able to not only survive, but also grow, and that I can find more ways to fill the gaps in New Jersey coverage and support colleagues in the region in their endeavors to do so. We need to work together to find ways to sustain and strengthen coverage in our state.

Thank you for your continued support,