Journal Register Company’s Ben Franklin Project leads to crowdsourced community revitalization

The Ben Franklin Project in Torrington, Connecticut, turned into an opportunity for residents to put down their own "Ben Franklin" - $100 - to be part of a crowdsourced effort to revitalize the downtown.

A big announcement is planned tomorrow in Journal Register Company newspaper town Torrington, Connecticut. After years of empty storefronts, absentee landlords and lack of progress on efforts to revitalize its struggling downtown, three local investors have stepped up to purchase a huge block of properties.

They plan to “crowdsource” the redevelopment of 27 retail storefronts, 70-plus office and apartment units and more than 110,000 total square feet of space in the heart of downtown.

The lead investor, Steven Temkin, got the idea from The Register Citizen‘s version of the Journal Register Company Ben Franklin Project. Our Ben Franklin edition on July 4, 2010, was focused entirely on downtown revitalization. We used crowdsourcing to report on the state of the downtown and possible solutions for the future. And we also highlighted the fact that Torrington is home to the nation’s first crowdsourced sports franchise. When out-of-state owners of the former Torrington Twisters NECBL team moved them to Massachusetts, the community rallied to buy memberships in a new team, which then has members vote on decisions such as what to name the team and who will coach it.

Steve, president of T&M Building, is an advertiser who has embraced our new “digital first” philosophy at JRC. He was the first in the company to attach his advertisements to our breaking news email alerts. And he was one of the first advertisers to try video ads on RegisterCitizen.Com.

Soon after our Ben Franklin edition, Steve visited my office and asked what I thought about using crowdsourcing to “save” and revitalize a key chunk of downtown properties that were in the process of foreclosure.

I wrote down some ideas for him, building upon the baseball team model, we reached out to some key community leaders, Steve found some like-minded investors, and less than three months later, they’ve closed on the sale and are offering $100 memberships to anyone who wants to own a piece of downtown and be part of this truly community revitalization effort. (I was one of the first to hand him a check.)

I’m still in awe that it’s really happening – and bowled over by the initial enthusiasm from a community that’s used to being pretty cynical and/or pessimistic.

The Ben Franklin Project was an amazing experiment that helped change the culture of Journal Register Company. Little did we know at the time that it would end up having an historic impact on our city as well.


About mattderienzo

Matt DeRienzo has worked for more than 20 years as a reporter, editor, publisher and corporate editorial director and has been recognized nationally for leading newsroom innovation. He teaches journalism at Quinnipiac University, writes a monthly column for Editor & Publisher magazine, and serves as interim executive director of LION Publishers, a national network of local independent online news site publishers. Previously, he served as group editor of Digital First Media's publications in Connecticut, including the New Haven Register, Middletown Press, Register Citizen and Connecticut Magazine, and Northeast regional editor for Digital First Media. He also served as publisher of The Register Citizen, Middletown Press and a group of weeklies in Northwest Connecticut, and before that was corporate director of news for small dailies and non-daily publications for the former Journal Register Company. In early 2011, The Register Citizen was named one of Editor & Publisher magazine's "10 Newspapers That Do It Right," and DeRienzo was named to its annual "25 Under 35" list of leaders in the newspaper industry. In the fall of 2011, The Register Citizen was awarded the Associated Press Managing Editors Innovator of the Year Award in recognition of The Register Citizen Newsroom Cafe, an "open newsroom" launched in Torrington, Connecticut, in December 2010. He led a team of more than 100 journalists in covering the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in late 2012 and 2013, and has been honored for his editorial writing and leadership of public service and investigative reporting. In 2014, his efforts at the New Haven Register were recognized with the APME's and ASNE's Robert C. McGruder Award for Leadership in Newsroom Diversity. DeRienzo is a former longtime board member of the United Way of Northwest Connecticut, and served as co-chairman of the United Way's annual fundraising campaign in 2009 and again in 2011. In 2011, he received the organization's Lifetime Achievement Award.
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1 Response to Journal Register Company’s Ben Franklin Project leads to crowdsourced community revitalization

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Journal Register Company’s Ben Franklin Project leads to crowdsourced community revitalization | NewspaperTurnaround.Com --

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