The Sun comes up on Worcester

News start-up plans spring debut

A former employee at the Telegram & Gazette is preparing to launch a digital daily news startup sometime between April and July. The Worcester Sun will appear online only during the week, but on Sundays the Sun will come out both online and in print.

The Sun would probably be the first daily online outlet in the country to offer a Sunday-only newspaper, according to Mark Henderson, the president and co-founder of Worcester Media Partners, the Sun’s parent company and the former online director of the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

The Telegram & Gazette and MassLive, which recently entered the Worcester market, zero in on breaking news. But Henderson said he wants the Sun to focus on “long-form civic journalism” that takes deeper dives into subjects such as education and health care in Worcester and central Massachusetts.

“People who take the time to read longer pieces tend to do so on the weekend. Whether it’s for the inserts or for the local news, they are engaged in print on Sunday in a way that they might not be during the week,” said Henderson.

Between out-of-pocket funds and time spent on the project, Henderson estimates that he and his business partner Fred Hurlbrink, a former Gatehouse Media copy editor and page designer who is the site’s managing editor and creative director, have invested about $100,000.

The Sun recently launched a month-long $150,000 Kickstarter campaign to raise seed money for web and print design, and circulation and online billing systems.  The Sun currently has 14 backers who’ve pledged about $1,300.

Asked his options if the campaign falls short, Henderson said that “he hadn’t thought about that yet,” but added that the firm would look at other opportunities to raise the money.

Worcester Media Partners has an advisory group, “a cross-section of people in business and regional media” who Henderson declined to name. He acknowledged that his company has other media projects in the works, but he said that those plans were not ready to be made public.

A Sun subscription would likely run between $1 and $2 per week for both the online and the Sunday tabloid edition. Individual print editions would be available for $1.

The Telegram & Gazette costs $1.25 weekdays and $3 on Sunday.  “We think that at$1 per week we can come out as a mass market product,” he said. The Sunday newspaper will contain roughly 40 to 48 pages of “100 percent local stories,” Henderson said. The Sun will not run wire service articles.

Meet the Author

Gabrielle Gurley

Senior Associate Editor, CommonWealth

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

About Gabrielle Gurley

Gabrielle covers several beats, including mass transit, municipal government, child welfare, and energy and the environment. Her recent articles have explored municipal hiring practices in Pittsfield, public defender pay, and medical marijuana, and she has won several national journalism awards for her work. Prior to coming to CommonWealth in 2005, Gabrielle wrote for the State House News Service, The Boston Globe, and other publications. She launched her media career in broadcast journalism with C-SPAN in Washington, DC. The Philadelphia native holds degrees from Boston College and Georgetown University.

The Sun’s founder hopes to hire two or three staff writers and recruit freelancers.  “We aren’t going to be able to hire 10 or 12 people immediately,” said Henderson. But “on the freelance side, we will be paying the best rates in the city,” he said. He expects that subscriptions and advertising will cover staffing.

Henderson does not envision that the Sun will compete head-to-head with the Telegram & Gazette or MassLive.  He said the Sun could potentially offer print versions of stories that currently appear in digital-only outlets like MassLive, GoLocal Worcester, and other sites.  “That’s another area of focus for us…to see if we can work out an arrangement where we effectively have print syndication rights for their product and give them an audience that they may not already have,” Henderson said.