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eBay Launches Local News Online in Hawaii at Low, Low Rate of $19.99 a Month

There's no category on eBay for "local news," but Pierre Omidyar has settled on a price: $19.99 a month.

Omidyar's launching a local news site in Hawaii--it goes live today with an official launch set for next month--that focuses on community news and conversation. "Journalism plays a central role in the way democracy works, especially in this country," Omidyar told the Associated Press. "And our democracy doesn't work when journalism doesn't work."

How does he plan to make journalism work in Hawaii? He intends to charge twenty bucks a month for it.

For a $19.99 monthly charge (introductory offer of $4.99), Hawaii residents will have access to investigative local reporting, analysis, and conversation. "Reporter-hosts," the AP reports, will "post articles, interact with readers, provide frequent updates and host discussions."

Pierre Omidyar

Omidyar believes the site, Honolulu Civil Beat, will be a new model for local news that will work. "It's really critical to help find a way to do journalism that connects with ordinary citizens in a better way. I think that is what's been lacking. Because the industry has been preoccupied with its own decline, it hasn't had the opportunity to reinvent itself. As a new startup, we have the opportunity to reinvent that and bring journalism back into the center of conversation."

In an introductory message on the site today, Omidyar says he's building a "civic square."

"What does it mean to build a civic square? For us, it's about building a place where we can learn about and better understand our home, the challenges we face, and debate and discover ideas and strategies for moving forward."

The name, Civil Beat, Omidyar says, is meant to invoke both a civil and calm conversation ("Be You, Be Cool, Be Civil" goes the motto), as well as a team of journalists on the beat. "You might have guessed that this is all a bit of an experiment," he says. "We've never done this before, and we don't think anyone else has, either. Aside from the name Civil Beat, the whole idea of calling your reporters "reporter-hosts" is just one indication of how this is different. They're not just reporting the news--they're engaged in understanding and explaining the issues more deeply, and debating them with the community"

Now I can get behind the idea of reporters as reporters and "hosts" who engage, provoke, and keep people talking. It's just the question of whether people will pay ($4 or $20) for the privilege of engaging with those reporters.

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