Gadfly ‘Gannett Blog’ Shutting Down

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By: Mark Fitzgerald

Gannett Blog — Jim Hopkins’ one-man operation that demonstrated the power of crowd-sourcing by documenting massive layoffs at the nation’s largest newspaper publisher — is going out of business, Hopkins announced Tuesday.

Hopkins suggested the blog’s traffic, which he said was 10,000 unique visitors monthly, and the many comments on his items had proven overwhelming.

“Blogging can be very stressful, of course,” he wrote. “Now, I’m finding it may be psychologically harmful, too.”

In a telephone interview from his San Francisco home, Hopkins said as the readers became more angry and frustrated, he said, “I sort of went with them.”

The blog, he said, had become “like angry talk radio.”

Hopkins said that on Oct. 1 he will “stop active management” of the site, which will be “locked in place” with all previous blog items and comments accessible. “Basically, Gannett Blog will become a point-in-time snapshot of a Fortune 500 company in transition,” he wrote.

Hopkins said the tone of the comments left on his blog had changed since early December — when his blog was frequently cited as the best source of information as mass layoffs took place at 85 Gannett dailies during the course of a single week.

“Many of Gannett’s 41,500 employees came to understand what was taking place in the company,” he wrote. “They are now fear-filled, desperate, angry — even suicidal, on occasion.”

Hopkins, and many commenters, had also previously complained about the anti-homosexual tone of some commentary. Hopkins is openly gay. In recent days, Hopkins had announced he was no longer soliciting or accepting donations to keep the blog going.

A former reporter and business desk editor for USA Today, Hopkins took a buyout in 2007, and soon after began the blog dedicated to tracking virtually every business development at Gannett.

Hopkins had also come under criticism from readers after his appearance at Gannett’s annual meeting in April. He hired a bodyguard to accompany him to the meeting after getting comments online that suggested he should be stalked when he was in the Washington, D.C., area. “I didn’t do that lightly,” Hopkins said. “I wanted the psychological advantage that I had a team with me.”

Some readers also criticized his questioning of Chairman Craig Dubow.

“I’ll tell you right now my performance was uneven, but my gosh, I was there with 300 people who didn’t like me,” he said.

Hopkins said he intends to concentrate on a new venture, Ibiza Confidential, he describes as an online site for “gay men who travel business class.”

“I showed you could be a citizen journalist, you could get an audience, you could make money, and now I hope somebody else picks up the baton,” Hopkins said. He said earned about $20,000 from Gannett Blog in the last year.

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