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Cover Story: Blog Launches Newspaper

Newest contributor to local independent media

By Ben L. Kaufman · June 20th, 2007 · Cover Story
  Jason Haap
Mark Bealer

Jason Haap

Jason Haap is having too much fun to worry about the new conventional wisdom. While newspapers rush to the Internet with all of their resources, Haap is a solo blogger moving to print, creating Cincinnati's newest free newspaper, The Cincinnati Beacon.

"I don't think anyone has done this before," he says.

Ten thousand copies hit the newsstands June 1, and its original content will appear midmonth on his blog, cincinnatibeacon.com.

I love the birth of a newspaper or the resurrection of what Deborah Howell, The Washington Post's ombuds, calls the "dead tree format." There is joy in reading a paper anywhere I like, unconcerned whether I'm on a lily pad or connected to the universe except through ideas.

Haap, 32, a high school English teacher and Kennedy Heights resident, is innocent of journalism training. His extensive blog combines facts (reporting) and editorializing (opinion) by a non-journalist and his non-journalist buddies.

Their inaugural 12-page edition is financed by Rick Hines, who runs cincynation.com. Haap credits Hines with the idea of adding print to the blog.

"I have been trying to do something in Cincinnati for a couple years now," Hines says. "Jason has consistently authored The Beacon online and, before that, the Dean of Cincinnati blog. I saw in him someone who was a hard worker, dedicated and one who could present the issues facing Cincinnati.

... I think the corporate media is moving toward frivolous stories, and I'm hoping that The Beacon can help to present the issues facing Cincinnati. Despite being an Internet entrepreneur, my first love will always be newspapers."

If 15-20 percent of each edition's pages is paid ads, printing costs will be covered. It will take more to reimburse Haap and his colleagues for such out-of-pocket costs as mileage to distribute The Cincinnati Beacon.

Haap says ad sales "just about have our costs covered" for the July 1 issue.

"After that, I have no idea what's going to happen. ... That I pulled off something that looks like a newspaper is enough to please myself," he says.

June's page 1 lead story by Michael Earl Patton, also a cincinnatibeacon.com contributor, says Cincinnati Police statistics show that officers bust six times as many blacks as whites for marijuana use, although Cincinnati has a 53 percent white majority and weed use is about equal by both races. Inside are columns by Hamilton County Commissioner David Pepper, a union leader, Enquirer critic/blogger cincynewsache.blogspot.com and others.

Haap says the only complaints he has heard involve aesthetics; critics say his first edition is "ugly."

Blogging was a response to the 2001 killing of Timothy Thomas, the subsequent riot and later death of Nathaniel Jones in a confrontation with police. Those events convinced Haap "something's wrong with my city. ... I never really paid attention to politics before the riots."

Haap says teaching colleagues disagreed whether he should enter politics, but they honored his awakening by appointing him "The Dean of Cincinnati." A colleague also introduced him to basics of running a Web site; deanofcincinnati.com was born.

Haap wrote most of it, often during pre-dawn hours before teaching. When his site recently had a "major meltdown" during updating, it was "time to create something new."

That became the more sophisticated, more extensive cincinnatibeacon.com. He still writes much of it but others, including contributors to The Cincinnati Beacon, regularly join him. Justin Jeffre -- singer, former mayoral candidate and close blog collaborator -- also expects to be involved financially in the paper.

Haap remains "in charge" of the unpaid, collegial Internet and print efforts with the title of president of content and audience awareness.

Haap says there is an embarrassment of riches about which The Cincinnati Beacon can report and, given the passivity that he and others commonly attribute to newsgathering at local dailies and in TV newsrooms, he isn't worried that the monthly newspaper will be pre-empted by established news media. In practice, it's the other way around; some local media use cincinnatibeacon.com as a tip sheet.

If The Cincinnati Beacon and cincinnatibeacon.com draw enough ads, the paper might go biweekly, he says. That, however, has a steep price: income for people producing the print edition because volunteering has its limits.

That might require a more formal, legal status, such as an Ohio limited liability company (LLC), but Haap laughingly dismisses any suggestion that would make him part of the "corporate media" so often faulted on cincinnatibeacon.com.

At this point, however, "It helps that all of us have day jobs and our livelihoods don't depend on it."

How does Haap, who oversees and writes for cincinnatibeacon.com and writes for, edits and lays out The Cincinnati Beacon, find time with teaching, being a husband and father?

"I simply refuse to ask myself such questions," he says. He finds it.

And if money runs out, The Cincinnati Beacon print experiment will die, Haap says.

"It was a good time while we had a chance to play," he says.



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