Editor and publisher of SDNN was just beta too?

sdnn-logoThe San Diego News Network launched last week creating buzz about a new, vibrant source for local San Diego news. Just the fact that such a site was launching at all, anywhere in this climate, was man-bites-dog enough to attract interest and attention.

The SDNN.com launch has been a soft one. To use the common web parlance, the site is ‘in beta,’ which means the site is rolling out features and content and also correcting bugs.

Apparently also in beta was SDNN.com’s founding executive editor and publisher, Ron James, who appears to have been ousted by the investors within a week of the site’s debut.

This news was broken by San Diego CityBeat’s Eric Wolff on his blog March 27, and, three hours later, the site posted a press release announcing that James was being replaced by Barbara Bry and a search launched for his permanent replacement.

The site had a few to-be-expected hiccups in the first week, from an outsider’s perspective. These included how the site enabled (or not) comments on its news stories and blog posts. Basically, news articles and the site blog (callled “A Conversation with San Diego”) required two different logins since they’ve been built on two different WordPress systems. But the average Betty or Joe couldn’t tell and so I, for instance, couldn’t understand why the site wouldn’t let me log in to comment even after I’d created a profile.

In web parlance, again, that’s known as a minor WTF moment.

Its launch was scheduled initially for March 18, but it debuted two days later on March 20 and was officially ‘live’ on Mon, Mar. 23. This was also no big deal.

But then it let go of the very guy that conceived and created the site. James was the former content manager for SignonSanDiego.com and was also responsible for attracting a lot of talent from the former UT ranks to this new venture.

That’s a much bigger WTF moment.

Plenty appeared to be going right, during the initial first days. There was interesting content to read as well as buzz and interest. Content partners were promoting the site’s launch in their pages—columnists and freelancers too. People had picked up on it, and it was getting Tweeted about quite a bit.

Financial backer Barbara Bry was commenting and responding to some of the blog posts related to the new site.

And it was also clear from the updates posted on Twitter by the PR team on @SDNewsNetwork and Bry at @RWRSD that SDNN.com was listening to user feedback and addressing that feedback with action.

And then, kaboom, James is no longer there and I’ve got whiplash.

The SDNN.com masthead reserves its largest typeface for the words ‘BETA 2.9’. Now, I don’t have the first clue what the 2.9 is supposed to signify to me, what the difference is between 2.8 and 2.9, and why anyone should care except for the site’s webmaster?

But I am willing to cut the site all kinds of slack for technological glitches or delays in rolling out sections or content, especially since the only issue I had (how to comment) seemed to be something that was being addressed.

I now feel, however, that the site has been sullied by its own internal issues, which is a genuine bummer given the initial excitement around a new news outlet coming online at such a downer of a time in this industry.

I’ll be very interested to see who is selected to fill James’ shoes there and expect that there will be more to this story over the next few days. But, seriously, WTF? San Diego News Network

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