Sparkt Bridges

One Man Gives His Whole Town a Voice

What he's doing could be a model for how community news is covered.

This story is part of a bi-weekly series that celebrates people who are reaching across a divide to "build bridges" with those different from themselves. The Sparkt Bridges series is made possible with the support of UPMC.

Sonny Jani's hometown is like a lot of small towns.There's a constant struggle to provide services without overtaxing people. Some storefronts on the main street are empty. The schools have their challenges.

But there's also a tight-knit, family feeling in McKees Rocks, a community of 6,000 people just outside of Pittsburgh. People care about what's going on, and are passionate about having a voice in the community's future.

Sonny Jani says Gazette 2.0 keeps everyone "honest."

So when Sonny heard the only newspaper in "The Rocks" (as it's nicknamed) was going out of business he knew he had to do something. So he bought it. We're taking you inside to see how Sonny and his staff could change not only their town, but reshape the way we all interact with the news:

The Gazette 2.0 is published every other week . Sonny says while he expects the paper to lose some money this year, it's significantly less than expected. He's confident they're headed in the right direction and eventually hopes to hire more people, cover more than the seven communities they currently serve, and have a real digital edition.

In business less than 2 years, the paper is already winning awards!

Andy Conte, director of the Center for Media Innovation at Point Park University in Pittsburgh , says this could be a model in a world where traditional papers are folding. "I think the experiment that's happening with Gazette 2.0 has the ability to take place across the country," predicted Andy. "For so long news has been a one-way proposition. Now citizens can identify stories in their communities and they have a role in sharing that information."

The Sparkt Bridges Project is produced

with the generous support of UPMC.

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