Orleans Hub reaches 11th anniversary

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 April 2024 at 3:39 pm

News site would benefit if state law changed to allow legal notices in online news publications

Photo by Tom Rivers: It was a sight to behold on Aug. 20, 2017, when John Brown of Batavia was driving a car in the Oak Orchard River. Brown was giving his friends, Bill and Joanne Hayes, a ride in a 1964 Amphicar. Brown’s dog Reagan, an English Setter, also enjoyed the experience. Orleans Hub was at Point Breeze for a fishing derby awards ceremony, but the Amphicar was causing a stir.

The Orleans Hub is 11 years old. We’ve kept the news coming during a time when many newspapers are closing or shrinking.

We went live on April 1, 2013. In the 11 years we’ve had 39,294 posts about local news, events and people.

Orleans County is considered by some to be a “news desert” because there isn’t a locally based printed newspaper. The Lake Country Pennysaver is considered a “community paper” and goes to 20,000 households.

The county shows up on a map (click here) as an underserved community. Orleans is the only county out of 62 in the state without a newspaper based in the county.

We think we are filling a lot of the gap since The Journal-Register and Albion Advertiser closed. Those newspapers were running pretty bare bones by the time they shut down. The Journal-Register was actually based out of Lockport in Niagara County when it shut down about a decade ago.

I started at Albion Advertiser and Journal-Register nearly 28 years ago. The two papers were owned by the same conglomerate and together there were six or seven full-time reporters for the county back in 1996. Now, I’m the last full-time reporter devoted to Orleans County. I’ve been the last full-timer for about a decade now.

The Orleans Hub is based out of The Lake Country Pennysaver building in Albion, although the news editor, correspondent and sports editor write nearly all of their articles from home. We post some articles in coffee shops and other places where we can get a good WiFi signal.

In the early days of the Hub, some predicted we wouldn’t last 6 months. It is a very tough business after all. But we have shown a commitment to the county and getting a lot of news out each day. We post about 3,500 articles a year.

We appreciate we have enough advertisers so we don’t have to do a subscription-based model. Our intent is to keep the news site open to the community without requiring a fee to see the news.

A big help for us would be a change in the state law to allow online-only news sites to carry legal notices, those announcements of public hearings, meetings and new local laws. Right now, they have to be in a paid newspaper with some circulation in the county. Most notices don’t meet the legal requirement to be allowed in a community paper like the Pennysaver, either.

The Daily News of Batavia carries most of the legal notices from Orleans. Some of the local governments have tried to have the notices in the Orleans Hub, where there is a much higher readership in our county, compared to The Daily News circulation here. But it’s not allowed. Medina village officials were the latest to try to get the legal notices for the Orleans Hub. But they said the Hub doesn’t fit the legal requirement so the legals will continue to be in The Daily.

That money would certainly help us, and would also get the notices in a more widely read local publication. And I bet we’d do it at a lower cost to the local governments.

We encourage our local state legislators to push for a change in this requirement, so online news sites can carry the notices. Perhaps, a starting point could be for online news sites to be allowed to carry legal notices in counties without a paid printed newspaper based in that county.

One state Legislature recently passed legislation to allow legals to be in online-only news organizations. The bill is awaiting the Virginia governor’s signature.

Virginia state legislators want to allow online-only publications with regular local news coverage to be able to legally post public notices – and generate revenue from them.

Among the stipulations: the online site must employ local news staff and have its own dedicated domain name. A link to the public notice section must be easily found from the home page, and the content cannot be behind a paywall.

The Orleans Hub certainly meets these standards, and we have a good following of readers. Our traffic last year topped 8 million pageviews for the 8th straight year.

The Hub remains grateful for our advertisers and the many loyal readers who check our site. Some of the Hub readers come back many times a day.

People willing to donate to the operation can mail a check to the Orleans Hub, 170 North Main St. Albion NY 14411 or click here for an online contribution. Thank you.