According to this morning’s Marin Independent Journal, residents of rural west Marin County want to be able to talk to one another, but don’t want the restrictions placed on them by local community newspapers and West Marin radio station KWMR. So they’ve created an online forum, www.forumwestmarin.org, where residents talk about anything — politics, drug use, pesticides, pollution and even the dispute between the present and former publishers of the Point Reyes Light. The site was started by Jeanette Pontacq, Donna Sheehan and Paul Reffell, according to the article. Says Don Deane, the publisher of the weekly Coastal Post newspaper, “If it gets used and catches on, it’s a great idea … There’s certainly plenty of stuff out here to comment about.”
It’s certainly not the first online site that does some of the work of a local newspaper. The Bay Area also has the Coastsider (an online newspaper for Half Moon Bay), the San Francisco Sentinel (which covers the city in both words and pictures), the more hip SFist.com, Metroblog San Francisco (part of a chain of Metroblogs in several U.S. cities), and seemingly millions of special-focus news sites including Valleywag.com (a Silicon Valley gossip site) and Curbed San Francisco (a site that claims it treats real estate like pornography).
There was also the site of former Mercury News columnist Dan Gillmor, Bayosphere, which is being revamped and will be part of an online “hyperlocal” news project in Palo Alto being set up by the Internet startup company Backfence. Backfence has similar community news sites in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. (By the way, Backfence’s community news site for Palo Alto was supposed to be online by the end of this month.)