Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Former Houston TV reporter to shutter news site

UPDATE MARCH 01, 2019
Covering Katy and Fort Bend to continue as Spellman News

An update on my look at Houston independent news websites

Dennis Spellman

Have a couple of sad updates to report on a piece I wrote for the blog almost a year ago.

In my article Houston journalists go independent, talk finances and paywalls, I talked with former CW39 KIAH reporter Dennis Spellman about his Covering Katy website.

Last year, Spellman told mikemcguff.com that if it happened overnight in Katy, his goal was to have it posted when people wake up.

"When I moved to Katy nine years ago it was clear that this community of 300,000 plus people had no news outlet that was aggressively covering the news," he told me at the time. "We were loaded with magazines that were doing lots of fluff but no one, not even the newspaper of record, was covering news in any meaningful way.

Spellman admitted financially, running a hyperlocal news site was a struggle.

"At times I’ve had to reach into my own pocket to keep the lights on, but market forces are on my side," Spellman said. "When I started people would not advertise because I did not have a print product. Now advertisers don’t even ask if we also have a print product."

He decided to run a paywall on his site like the HoustonChronicle.com and other papers have adopted over the years.

However a week ago, Spellman posted he was suspending the seven-year-old news site on February 28, 2019.

“We have chosen to continue through the month of February so that we can live up to our obligations to advertisers and subscribers,” Spellman wrote. “There will be no additional charges to monthly subscribers and all annual subscribers were issued a refund on Friday morning."

You can read more here about Spellman's decision to suspend the site.

From my vantage point of running a little Houston media blog for a decade plus, no one is getting rich doing this - even if you see ads running around these very words. And it's not just the little sites - the big dogs in publishing are hurting too. In fact, if you follow me on Twitter, I just tweeted a New Yorker article that asked Does Journalism Have a Future?

I should note however, that the Houston Chronicle just posted the article Houston Chronicle parent reports record profits, again. So don't cry for Hearst Houston.

Another update concerns former Texas Monitor editor Trent Seibert who was featured in my article.

He sadly died last August.



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