Fifty.” Tracy Record finishes counting the items on her voluminous list of story ideas on a recent Wednesday morning. “It’s the only actual analog writing I ever do,” says the founder of West Seattle Blog.
That’s because Record spends the bulk of her days turning those jotted notes into furiously typed updates on the community news site. Covering everything from restaurant openings to submarines in the Sound, she publishes 10 or more articles per day about a swath of the city that’s often overlooked by local media. Even before the West Seattle Bridge’s closure further isolated the neighborhood, the former Q13 assistant news director had read unintentional digs about “getting from West Seattle to Seattle.” Record could only roll her eyes. “It’s like, yes, West Seattle is part of the city, hello.”
It takes more than a font of ideas and a niche born from neglect to run a sustainable indie journalism venture. While some sites now lean on subscriptions and donations, West Seattle Blog’s business model continues to rely on ad sales. Record’s husband, Patrick Sand, has never raised the blog’s rates.
Record isn’t sure the site would’ve gained the traction it has—about 100,000 unique users visit every week—if she’d started it after Facebook took off. She’d lived in West Seattle for 14 years when she got the itch on Christmas Eve in 2005 to chat about her neighborhood online. She couldn’t find an online venue for her musings, so she started a blog. No one read it at first. But almost a year later, when the 2006 Hanukkah Eve windstorm knocked out power across the state, citywide news coverage mostly omitted West Seattle. “We started getting notes from people saying, Hey, what’s going on?”
Record and Sand drove around, looking for power trucks, reporting whatever information they could find. They covered more stories over the next year and, in 2007, decided to make a go of it full-time.
Now West Seattle receives more coverage than many of the city’s landlocked communities. “Any neighborhood,” she says, “would benefit from having a reliable, accurate, timely site of information.”