Debbie Galant: See You Around the Quad

BY  |  Monday, Jul 09, 2012 10:30am  |  COMMENTS (57)

It’s been more than eight years since I started Baristanet, and I can measure its growth by the responses we’ve gotten in nine different Montclair July 4th parades. Riding in a convertible with a big Baristanet sign that first year — 2004 — I mostly got confused stares. By 2006, we — and it had become very much a “we” operation by that time — took second prize. Each successive year, the number of people riding our float has grown — and more people in the crowds cheer us on.

I rode in the parade again this year, but it was bittersweet. Because while it is always fun to greet an online audience out in the real world, I knew that my relationship to Baristanet and Baristaville is changing. Today, I leave the day-to-day management of this news site and begin an exciting new role at Montclair State University.

When I began Baristanet, I was not setting out to change the world. I merely saw an opportunity. Blogging had created an instant publishing platform and with a minor investment, I could start a 21st century version of the local hometown paper. The news site I imagined would be breezier than a traditional newspaper, more fun, and more interactive. And I soon learned, a lot nimbler as well.

That was the little arrow I shot into the world in May 2004. It went by the name “hyperlocal journalism.”

I had no idea that over the next eight years, enormous waves of technological change — including the one I was riding — would come crashing down on the news business, decimating great newsrooms.

Nor did I understand how big a role commenters would play on the site, or that they would turn out to have such huge personalities. I had no idea what would rile people up: that saying someone had “died” would be considered insensitive, or that pet threads could get so nasty.

And I had no way of knowing how many people, all over the country, would see Baristanet and be inspired to create versions in their own towns.

Over the years, I was lucky enough to be invited all over the country to meet other news entrepreneurs, and ultimately to sit in rooms with very smart people discussing the future of journalism. It was different from the day-to-day of running a news site, and I found these conversations captivating. I discovered that this was a place I liked to be.

Today, I’m heading up to Montclair State University, where I’m joining an ambitious effort to nurture digital and hyperlocal journalism in New Jersey. Interesting and powerful things are happening up on the hill. There’s a new School for Communication and Media, NJTV, the successor to NJN, already produces its nightly newscast on the Montclair State University campus. And other news organizations, like New Jersey Public Radio and NJ Spotlight, will be there soon.

With the help of the Geraldine Dodge Foundation, Montclair State is spearheading an effort to help news organizations in the state survive the seismic shifts in the economics of journalism, and to create better journalism by working together. I am honored to have been recruited to join the team. To start with, I will spend the summer traveling the state, listening to publishers, large and small. I’ll have more to report in the fall.

It is hard to leave Baristanet, but I leave you in good hands. My longtime business partner Liz George, who joined Baristanet just weeks after I started it, will be running the show. Annette Batson, who has been with us for seven years, will continue selling ads and helping local businesses find their customers. Georgette Gilmore, who runs Barista Kids, is now taking on more responsibility on the parent site. Meanwhile, Holly Korus will do her best to make everybody a little tipsy, while Jenn Schiffer, our web developer, will keep on making sure the site doesn’t implode.

And I’ll be here, surely, as a reader, commenter and occasional writer, watching as this little experiment continues to morph and grow in ways I never could have imagined in 2004.

So it’s not goodbye so much as “See you around the quad.”

One simple request before I leave. Be nice to each other. We’re not just pixels on a shiny screen. We’re neighbors.

57 Comments

  1. POSTED BY Tara Williams  |  July 09, 2012 @ 10:40 am

    Congratulations, Debbie! This sounds like an exciting opportunity for you and for NJ journalists and newspapers.

  2. POSTED BY Erika Bleiberg  |  July 09, 2012 @ 10:41 am

    Good for you, Debbie. Your unique voice and forward thinking will be a great asset to this new program, and the “disruptive innovation” going on in the industry is right up your alley. Glad to know you’re out there helping guide the 21st century media age. Mazel Tov and best of luck.

  3. POSTED BY Mrs Martta  |  July 09, 2012 @ 10:43 am

    Wow, all the best to you, Debbie, in your new venture and ad-venture! I look forward to hearing more about it.

  4. POSTED BY kay  |  July 09, 2012 @ 10:47 am

    We’ll miss you, Debbie – may the road rise to meet you in your new endeavors!

  5. POSTED BY Kristen Kemp  |  July 09, 2012 @ 10:49 am

    I’ve always admired your talent, vision and bravery. You will shine wherever you go. And I hope I still get to see you sometimes along the way. Many, many congratulations. I hope MSU knows how lucky they are to have you.

  6. POSTED BY herbeverschmel  |  July 09, 2012 @ 10:50 am

    Watch out for the Occupy movement up there at MSU it must be in full force by now. Seriously best wishes for a successful career move.

  7. POSTED BY Conan  |  July 09, 2012 @ 10:50 am

    Wow, Debbie, good for you. As a consistent poster for at least seven of your eight years, let me be one of the first to wish you good luck. No, make that Great Luck! The Baristas have always been good journalists in my eyes — yeah, there were a few problems with getting all the Five W’s down for a story, and occasionally not all the news that was fit to transmit got transmitted — but Baristanet was providing me with excellent local information before I even moved to Bloomfield.

    Right now, I am sitting in my new home office overlooking the Santa Ynez mountains above Santa Barbara, drinking Dunkin’ Donuts coffee (imported) from a humongous Baristanet Cup I won for “Comment of the Week” a number of years back (it was a slow news day, as old what’s-his-face might say), and thinking that what you are doing in New Jersey needs to be done nationally as soon as possible. The journalism field needs talented people with print, radio, television, and internet news gathering/disseminating experience right now to determine how to best define the future.

    Give ‘em hell, Debbie. And I know you will.

  8. POSTED BY mkapageridis  |  July 09, 2012 @ 10:51 am

    Wow how exciting for you! Thank you for all your hard work! Baristanet is the staple of Montclair. When I have a new client who wants to learn all about Montclair I direct them to Baristanet lol to not just get information about the town but to also get the flavor of the people in the town by all t heir colorful comments. This isn’t a goodbye I’m sure we’ll hear many great things from you!! Best of luck!!!
    Maha

  9. POSTED BY Georgette Gilmore  |  July 09, 2012 @ 10:52 am

    Good luck Deb!

  10. POSTED BY galaxyman1  |  July 09, 2012 @ 10:56 am

    Best wishes, Debbie! Thanks for all of your good work.

  11. POSTED BY Brian Glaser  |  July 09, 2012 @ 11:13 am

    Mazel tov, indeed.

  12. POSTED BY Annette Batson  |  July 09, 2012 @ 11:14 am

    Deb, you really just want to be around all those good looking’ young kids!
    LOL, seriously, happy trails on this new adventure. You’ll be a great addition to the MSU team!

  13. POSTED BY frankgg  |  July 09, 2012 @ 11:15 am

    Congratulations!!! Much love and Gratitude carissima Debbie! oxoxo

  14. POSTED BY Liz George  |  July 09, 2012 @ 11:34 am

    Best of luck Deb — in your next chapter!

  15. POSTED BY jerseygurl  |  July 09, 2012 @ 11:50 am

    Congratulations, and good luck!

  16. POSTED BY complainerpuss  |  July 09, 2012 @ 11:52 am

    I’m guessing that is probably why they were shooting off fireworks at Yogi Berra Stadium the other night. Congrats!

  17. POSTED BY thewestseattleblog  |  July 09, 2012 @ 11:59 am

    To our inspiration, mentor, and friend we wish you call the best. Thank you for your help when we were getting started early on.

    Tracy and Patrick at The West Seattle Blog

  18. POSTED BY walleroo  |  July 09, 2012 @ 12:02 pm

    This is a magnitude 10!

  19. POSTED BY walleroo  |  July 09, 2012 @ 12:02 pm

    Does this mean there’s going to be more foot traffic on the porch, Liz? Because if that’s so I gotta bone to pick with you.

  20. POSTED BY geoff gove  |  July 09, 2012 @ 12:21 pm

    Bittersweet indeed! Congrats on an exciting move up the hill. Baristanet’s loss is NJ hyperlocal journalism’s gain. Looks like a Win-Win for all! Maybe a new MSU area news source is on the way. Glad you’ll still be popping up around the streets of Baristaville.

  21. POSTED BY lisadavies  |  July 09, 2012 @ 12:23 pm

    Best of luck Debbie! That sounds like a really interesting and exciting challenge! You will be missed around here!

  22. POSTED BY jerseygurl  |  July 09, 2012 @ 12:30 pm

    ‘roo, I have ample space under my porch if you need to move. Unfortunately, you’d have to share with a big ass ground hog who uses it as a bachelor pad a few times a week.

  23. POSTED BY rb  |  July 09, 2012 @ 12:36 pm

    Congrats & good luck. Thank you for your help.

  24. POSTED BY walleroo  |  July 09, 2012 @ 1:01 pm

    For those of us who have been here since day one, this is just incredible. It’s a sea change, a changing of the guard, a meqaquake, a tsunami, a revolution, a historic moment. I’m having trouble getting my mind around it.

    This means, for one thing, that cathar outlasted Galant. I do recall him saying, many years ago, “I will bury you.” Or did she say that to him? Or am I confusing them both with some other larger than life character? Someone please check the archives.

  25. POSTED BY pat gilleran  |  July 09, 2012 @ 1:26 pm

    Cathar did state he would bury Galant but it was in adjectives!

  26. POSTED BY redbankgreenman  |  July 09, 2012 @ 2:10 pm

    If I hadn’t read that 2006 New York magazine article about blogging in which Baristanet was featured, I can’t imagine I’d ever have had the lightning-strike idea to create redbankgreen.com. It was love at first sight.

    Debbie, you’ve been a wonderful mentor to me and, I know, to dozens of others hyperlocal publishers across the country. Thank you and best of luck.

    John T. Ward

  27. POSTED BY mimimichalski  |  July 09, 2012 @ 2:14 pm

    Best wishes at your new job — sounds like a wonderful opportunity that will be very worthwhile! Don’t be a stranger, you will be missed!

  28. POSTED BY Bernadette Baum  |  July 09, 2012 @ 2:22 pm

    Congrats, Debbie! All the best at the new gig. Will miss your voice here. xox

  29. POSTED BY wayne robbins  |  July 09, 2012 @ 2:43 pm

    Deb…Good for you…MSU will be much better off having someone like you be part of their team.

    I remember some of my early segments of Inside Montclair on Tv – 34, where I interviewed you about the books you had written, and a few “happenings” regarding Baristanet…all great spots, and you even looked & sounded cool on camera too ( even though sometimes you almost ran away – not wanting to be on camera ).

    Thank you for being part of our ” Community “, and bringing so many people together, who would have never met each other – in person, or online.

    Best Of LUCK.

  30. POSTED BY Kristin  |  July 09, 2012 @ 3:41 pm

    Congratulations, and enjoy looking down the hill on all of us from the ivory towers of MSU. Does this mean you actually get an office? No more sitting in the windows of Trend or Red Eye?

  31. POSTED BY Iceman  |  July 09, 2012 @ 5:11 pm

    Good Luck Debbie and thanks for providing a neighborhood for us to shout out our views and opinions. As an outcast (read Conservative) I have never felt that my voice couldn’t be shared. You have always encouraged the free and open exchange of ideas and opinions…as long as we’re civil.

  32. POSTED BY profwilliams  |  July 09, 2012 @ 5:25 pm

    Good Luck Debbie.

    That quad is a very special place to me, and you will make a great addition to it!!

    LOVE that MSU is so in front of everything, as other places die on the vine. You will certainly be instrumental in changing journalism and the lives of their students.

    And that’s a gift that keeps on giving.

  33. POSTED BY cathar  |  July 09, 2012 @ 6:34 pm

    Welllllllll, okay, okay, good luck, Debbie.

    But I am curious as to how much the new position actually pays so that it would entice Debbie to leave her creation upon which she’s spent so much time and devotion the oast 8 years. Indeed, I’d like to know much more ahout this new project she’s leaving for, even as the Star-Ledger seems to be in the throes of its own death rattle; some of its funding, after all, surely comes from our tax revenues via Montclair State’s budget. (And that the survival of NJTV assures us a few more years of the well-coiffed Steve Adubato Jr. beaming out of a studio at Montclair State isn’t necessarily a genuine cultural advance for this state.)

    The corollary truth, however, is quite often that the “hyper-local journalism” which has been practiced on this site often doesn’t resemble journalism at all, and it’s outrageous to claim it does. It frequently, for example, pays at best cavalier attention to the niceties of reportorial accuracy (to say nothing of English grammar at times). And it has led to some rather public nastiness on this site. Including a fairly recent, clearly unwarranted attack on the editor of Montclair’s branch of Patch for her alleged “non-localness.” It also allows, time and again, for special pleading. And of a sort which then often leads to public ridicule of the “pleader” (I recall several people who complained about their parking tickets which led to such commentary) and to some truly useless dreaming that the NY Times itself would come to its senses and apologize for a story it wrote about Montclair’s local elections.

    So one might hope that the founder’s departure might then also occasion a realistic, searching look at what actually constitutes hyper-local journalism. And how it can be improved, made to at least work more effectively. Perhaps such a good look at how much of a role traditional good journalism should play in the makeup of a site like Baristanet is thus even long, long overdue. If New Jersey’s newspapers take a final nosedive, after all, a site like Baristanet will suddenly become far more important than it currently is. As will, alas, NJTV.

    Instead, however, others mainly posted congratulations above. I somehow expected more measured thoughtfulness about the role of actual journalism in the make-up of a site like Baristanet. (Et tu, good prof Williams? Not least because you already work at Montclair State. And what about beloved environmentalist loon Mathilda?)

    I also hope, if this site genuinely develops a commitment to the practice of journalism, that we’ll see even see fewer and fewer obvious slow nes days. Because I suspect there are many, many stories out there awaiting coverage. (Even as I grant a genuine need for and appreciation of lost pet coverage. And a daily comic strip of some kind would be nice, perhaps on the order of the original “The Serial” which covered Marin County; I wonder how Montclair would handle something like that.)

    Again, Debbie, good luck. I especially await seeing how your departure affects the actual content of this site.

  34. POSTED BY MellonBrush  |  July 09, 2012 @ 6:51 pm

    Good luck with your future pursuits at MSU. You and your partners did a remarkable job in creating Baristanet. I am so grateful that it exists and even if the reporting isn’t up to Cathar’s standards, I find it to be informative and entertaining spanning a wide variety of topics and personalities.

    Take care, and see you around ‘the Quad’.

    MB2

  35. POSTED BY jerseygurl  |  July 09, 2012 @ 7:24 pm

    Do you all see why it’s not possible for Cathar to use twitter?

  36. POSTED BY deborah broide  |  July 09, 2012 @ 7:26 pm

    I know that I emailed you, but I also wanted to add my congrats on this thread! It sounds like a wonderful opportunity. MSU is lucky to have you!

  37. POSTED BY kbanda  |  July 09, 2012 @ 8:40 pm

    Congratulations! Sounds like more exciting adventures await you. Baristanet has become an essential part of my day. I need my fix of hyperlocal news more than I need any other. Mazel tov!

  38. POSTED BY croiagusanam  |  July 09, 2012 @ 9:13 pm

    Is there ANY chance (PLEASE,PLEASE) that Ms Galant could take cathar with her to MSU. Or anywhere, really. Someplace where he might actually DO what he excoriates others for not doing. Of course, that would require some talent and some energy, and those seem to be in short supply over in Clifton.

    I’m also curious as to how cathar knows that the prof works at MSU? He has mentioned that he went there, but not that he works there. Wouldn’t being sure of facts be a part of “journalism”, whether hyper-local or plain old vanilla?

  39. POSTED BY Nellie  |  July 09, 2012 @ 9:18 pm

    Co.gratulations, Debbie. Your name is synonymous with Baristanet. This will be strange for a while.

  40. POSTED BY PAZ  |  July 09, 2012 @ 10:36 pm

    All the best, Debbie! Just be careful you don’t get cloistered in that ivy tower and expect tenure….The times they are a changin”.

  41. POSTED BY Debbie Galant  |  July 09, 2012 @ 11:18 pm

    Wow. Thanks everybody for the kind words.

  42. POSTED BY cathar  |  July 09, 2012 @ 11:18 pm

    For anyone who honestly thinks this site is “journalism,” (even the “hyper-local” kind, whatever that is really supposed to be), I can only pray for your currently damned souls.

    Well, maybe not for yours, croiagusanam.

  43. POSTED BY DagT  |  July 09, 2012 @ 11:20 pm

    Yes Debbie, many of the Baristanet personalities are “huge” but we would not know of them if not for you. Thank you for the many hours of unique entertainment and news that is Baristnet.

    I wish you good fortune as you take on your new challenges. How fortunate that your new platform is in the arena of education. Truly, you have and will continue to touch the future.

  44. POSTED BY croiagusanam  |  July 09, 2012 @ 11:24 pm

    Oh that’s fine, cathar. You’d be better served by asking God for something you can use. A sense of humour, some humility, and some social graces — these all come to mind.

    As for me, I agree with the great Irishman Wilde — “When the gods wish to punish us, they answer our prayers.”

  45. POSTED BY cathar  |  July 09, 2012 @ 11:31 pm

    I would never consider the Deity’s answering of my prayerful wishes for His treatment of you, croiagausanam, as anything ever approaching “punishment.”

    And I still await your spirited defense of this site as “journalism.” Or is it just that you’re eternally grateful it allows you a local platform for your rancor at the expense of others?

  46. POSTED BY walleroo  |  July 09, 2012 @ 11:53 pm

    All right, Debbie, the clock is running out, it’s almost midnight, so under the wire I’ll wish you the best of luck in your new enterprise, and thank you for being smart enough and tough enough and lucky enough to start this blog, which has turned out to be a very special place, despite all the crap I’ve said about it over the years to the contrary, and which has been bedy bedy good to me. Happy trails. Don’t take any wooden nickels. Be good. Don’t let the meat loaf.

  47. POSTED BY PAZ  |  July 10, 2012 @ 7:35 am

    Cathar…..for many years you railed against the poor grammar of the writers and the posters. I used to sweat every time I commented looking for comas,semi-colons, etc. Now I just let it flow for better or worse!
    Big W…..I believe to be journalistically correct, the proper quote is “Don’t let your meat loaf.
    Debbie, let us know how the cafeteria food is….Hunt down that pink slime!

  48. POSTED BY croiagusanam  |  July 10, 2012 @ 8:02 am

    I didn’t claim, cathar, that the site is journalism. I leave it to bitter wannabes like you to make those sorts of “definitions”. I DID note that you’re off the mark, yet again, as to the prof’s place of employment, and that sort of gaffe would not go over in the “journalism” world. Even such stellar outlets as THE VILLAGE VOICE, for example.

    I AM grateful for the site, as you should be as well. For you post far more often, far more rancorously, and at far greater length than I do.

  49. POSTED BY Holly Korus  |  July 10, 2012 @ 8:35 am

    I generally try to keep work and friendship separate but working with Deb has made that impossible. She has always encouraged me to use my voice even telling me that some of my articles were needed more of my voice.

    Again I feel fortunate enough to have worked with Deb and call her my friend.

  50. POSTED BY pat gilleran  |  July 10, 2012 @ 8:36 am

    @cathar Before your critique others you should proofread your post(s).

  51. POSTED BY Mrs Martta  |  July 10, 2012 @ 9:20 am

    I should add a thanks to Debbie for allowing me a forum to get the word out about lost pets and promote other pet news, especially for those living in shelters. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone say that if it wasn’t for Baristanet, they never would have been reunited with their lost dog or cat. Wish my full-time employment did not get in the way, however, because I would love to write more feature-type articles. :-)

  52. POSTED BY raeven  |  July 10, 2012 @ 10:13 am

    Congrats, sounds like a great opportunity.

  53. POSTED BY johnqp  |  July 10, 2012 @ 4:48 pm

    it’s so hard to say ‘au revoir’, so let’s just say ‘hors d’oevre’….

    with apologies to Martin Mull – Best of Luck !

  54. POSTED BY deborah broide  |  July 10, 2012 @ 5:54 pm

    Mrs. M,
    I thank you (and Debbie and Liz) for these “lost” pets report. To be honest, it’s the #1 reason I turn to Baristanet. I want to make sure that I haven’t seeing any missing pets. I know how distraught I would be if my three dogs got lost! (they all are microchipped etc. too).

  55. POSTED BY Spiro T. Quayle  |  July 13, 2012 @ 7:34 am

    Best of luck, Debbie. You started something great here.

  56. POSTED BY callmemaybe  |  July 15, 2012 @ 6:42 pm

    Good Luck, Debbie!

  57. POSTED BY latebloomer  |  July 16, 2012 @ 10:11 am

    Congratulations, Debbie! I remember when you came to Jerry Mosier’s “detente party” with news of the new website you were launching. You’ve come a VERY long way since then. Continued success in all your endeavors.

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