It was announced earlier today that the Chicago Tribune has invested in Journatic and will be using it to cover hyperlocal news.
A Romenesko reader writes:
I’m a former Patch editor who worked in a town also covered by TribLocal. The Tribune put considerable resources into TribLocal in advance of Patch’s mid-2010 launch into the Chicago suburbs. Prior to that, it was mainly a bulletin board for UGC [user-generated content], with the occasional staff-written story.
In summer/fall 2010, the TribLocal site was redesigned, additional staff hired to beef up news coverage and a weekly print version launched. TL even contracted a few freelancers to write columns and sports stories–something it rarely had done previously. For a while, coverage was robust, but it dropped off around the time Patch cut its freelancing budget last fall. In recent months, it appeared TL staffers were covering wider areas and had less time to focus on more in-depth coverage.
Coincidentally, I talked to Journatic after leaving Patch in 2011 and was told it was piloting a program for TribLocal. (It looks like the Oak Lawn TribLocal site is one of those currently being produced by Journatic.) I could find little online information about the company, beyond its origins in BlockShopper. I found Journatic to be very disorganized, as if it were growing faster than the folks at the top could handle. It has been running ads for writers and copy editors almost continuously for months. It resembles a content farm, with writers and editors paid on a piecework basis equating to $12 or $14 per hour.
Visitors to Sportsjournalists.com started asking questions about Journatic last December. Here’s what one person wrote:
This is a group from the same people that run BlockShopper. I think they started this Journatic stuff because BlockShopper is getting pounded with complaints about printing people’s personal information. What they do is take public records and print them. Perfectly legal, but ethics wise, not a good sell for public relations.
They also do real estate Sunday sections for newspapers looking for cheap help.
I did a Skype interview for one of these positions last year, and didn’t get the job. At that point, most of their page designers were in the Philippines. They only would have a handful of people in the US who would proof the work from the outsourced jobs.