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Rob Curley, the high priest of “hyperlocal” Web journalism, may soon be bolting from his job at the Washington Post Co.’s online publishing arm, according to sources close to the matter. The word is that Curley is preparing to depart for the Las Vegas Sun, an enterprising paper with an attractive Web site.
Curley, 37, last summer launched the Post’s much-discussed Loudounextra.com, a site that grafts the best elements of small-town journalism—community news, events, and personalities—onto an interactive platform. Fairfaxextra.com—same idea, different county—is scheduled to launch later this year.
Yet further expansion of the concept may have to take place under a different captain. When asked about rumors of his departure, Curley responds with a lawyered equivocation: “I don’t know if it’s going to happen or not.”
Robcurley.com is a bit more forthcoming on this point than Rob Curley.person. Earlier this year, Curley posted a long blog entry on his affection for the Las Vegas Sun‘s new Web site. The post makes clear that Curley is tight with the Sun , to the point of riffing about human capital:
After speaking with the staff of The Las Vegas Sun and its sister publications (the company owns/operates several weekly newspapers and glossy magazines in the Vegas area), Brian Greenspun asked me who else he should hire to do the things I talked about in my presentation.
I gave The Sun several names. To my surprise, the newspaper hired every single person on the list. Not some of them. All of them. They even added a few folks to the list who I hadn’t thought of. This new-media team at The Las Vegas Sun is full of friends of mine, as well as several other folks whose work I’ve always admired.
You gotta give the company credit for investing heavily in a new-media strategy in 2008. Lots of newspapers were investing (at least a little) back in 1998, but how many are still investing now? From an online perspective, this newspaper seems to be going from zero to 100 miles-per-hour almost overnight. It’s impressive and refreshing to see in this time of doom and gloom in our industry.
Good friends, a nice Web site, a newspaper with great acceleration—what more could an ambitious fellow like Curley want?
Before coming to Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, the Post Co.’s online publishing unit, Curley served as “director of new media and convergence for the Naples Daily News and its sister publications along Florida’s Gulf Coast,” according to his bio. And before that, he was a top official in the editorial and online operations of the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal-World.
Much ballyhoo accompanied his arrival at WPNI. Curley had given a presentation in Florida that was attended by top Post people, including the toppest of them all, Donald Graham. A period of wooing followed, with plenty of personal involvement by Graham. Curley acceded to the pressure and joined the Post Co. in October 2006, with the mission of securing the brand’s local biz plan.
His stature and innovative cachet were such that Curley got his own Skunk Works arrangement within the company, whereby he banged out his hyperlocal experiments free from the usual bureaucracy and imperfect washingtonpost.com Web platform. Washingtonpost.com Executive Editor Jim Brady declined to comment for this item. A top official for the Las Vegas Sun could not immediately be reached for comment.
In his travels from Kansas to Florida to Washington, Curley has brought with him a close-knit group of hyperlocalites—a team that is reportedly ready to join the boss should he move to Vegas. When asked about his movable fiefdom, Curley replied, “I have five people. That’s not a fiefdom—that’s not even an infield.”
“Right now, I am focused 100 percent on finishing our local projects.”