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A Newspaper on College Park May Start Next Year

At this week’s worksession, the City Council will discuss a proposal for starting a College Park based newspaper.

There had not been a mailed or widely distributed local newspaper serving College Park for more than a decade. The Diamondback predominately serves the UMD community, and it is ending print editions.

In the past few years, the City Council has discussed options to increase the reach and depth of City communications so that all residents are well-informed about local issues and activities. The City explored mailing the Municipal Scene to residents, but the staffing and postage costs were extremely high.

In early 2019, City staff began discussions with representatives from the Hyattsville Community Newspaper, Inc. (HCN, publisher of the Hyattsville Life & Times) regarding the possibility of establishing a new independent College Park community newspaper. HCN was founded by a group of residents in 2004 and celebrated its 15th year of continuous publication this past summer. The Life & Times is currently staffed by a mix of part-time professionals, local volunteers, and student journalists. It has won at least one award at the National Newspaper Association competition for eight years in a row. In late October, the HCN Board unanimously approved a proposal to publish a College Park edition beginning in 2020.

The purpose of this Worksession discussion is to consider this proposal for a College Park newspaper.

HCN would publish a new, monthly, full-color newspaper that would be mailed to residential and business addresses in the City of College Park, as well as distributed free at popular gathering spots in and around College Park. The newspaper would contain entirely local content — news, events, City Council, development, schools, neighborhoods, major crimes, features, personalities, and more. UMD news and issues would be covered when there is relevance to the wider community. The City government would not review the newspaper’s editorial coverage. The newspaper is primarily an organ to build up and bring together the community.

HCN is proposing to provide four pages of space for City content in each issue, created, branded and paid by the City government, so that the City of College Park can better communicate with its constituents at a cost much less than would be possible otherwise.

The HCN board would nearly double in size to include new members from the City of College Park, and the new paper would take advantage of HCN’s existing Md. incorporation, federal 501(c)3 status, and U.S.

Postal Service non-profit postal permit. The College Park and Hyattsville editions would employ separate editorial staffs and publish content specific to each municipality.

The College Park edition would benefit from the accumulated infrastructure and experience of HCN. College Park also offers some advantages over the City of Hyattsville in that it is larger (thereby allowing economies of scale) and has a much bigger commercial sector (promising a larger pool of advertisers). Those potential cost savings and revenue enhancements also can push costs down for our prospective partners, the City of College Park and local advertisers.

The startup budget for the newspaper anticipates approximately $30,000 is total expenses during the first four months. The primary revenue during this period is proposed to be City of College Park monthly payments of $6,500; $6,000; $5,500; and $5,000 (a total of $23,000 for four months with declining payments as business advertising increases). Business advertising is estimated to total $7,000 for the same period but would likely increase in future months. City commitment to the paper would enable the newspaper to invest in staffing and other resources required to start up a newspaper. This model is similar to the model that enabled the Hyattsville Life & Times to be created by residents in 2004.

[City of College Park]

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