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Students launch weekly online journal

Four months ago a group of University students and non-affiliates got together with hopes of producing a subjective forum for New Brunswick and University topics. Today the online journal is consistently putting out weekly columns.

The Johnsonville Press is meant to inform and give voice to all of those with ties to New Brunswick or the University, according to the Johnsonville Press' mission statement. It is an alternative source of news and opinions pertaining to the operations of the city of New Brunswick and the University, as well as to politics, art and culture. 

"We thought a new, independent publication, geared toward subjective writing and the community, could help improve community involvement, understanding of relevant issues, and of course raise the volume of the public voice," said Alex Giannattasio, the managing editor of The Johnsonville Press.

The idea of starting an online journal was first conceived in December, he said. The Johnsonville Press was up and running in late January, and progress was observed through February.

"Our original goal was a printed publication; there's something nostalgic and brilliant about reading a real, physical newspaper, something you just can't get reading off a screen," said Giannattasio, a Rutgers College senior. "But the reality of our first budget prevented that option from the outset, so we did what all good broke Generation-Xers do: we turned to the Internet." 

The main reason paper journals have not been done frequently in the past is because the costs for printing are so high, said Ron Miskoff, a professor in the Department of Journalism and Media Studies. A Web site can be run on a lot less money.

"Writing for The Johnsonville Press is completely voluntary, and the Web site receives no funding, but there are some prospective deals with some local business that like the Web site," said Michael Stuzynski, the editor-in-chief of The Johnsonville Press. "The Web hosting and domain name costs for the Web site were paid out of pocket by Alex." 

Since The Johnsonville Press currently doesn't make any money, the lack of affiliations allows it to publish anything it wants, as long as the writer can justify the facts cited in a particular submission, said Stuzynski, former opinions editor and current columnist for The Daily Targum. 

"I think it's fine to create an online journal not affiliated with Rutgers ... I would encourage other students to create their own Web sites because I think [online news] is the direction of news in the future …" Miskoff said. "Although the regular necessities of journalism ought to apply to the Web site, such as telling all sides of a story, a site such as The Johnsonville Press can veer from this accepted pattern to make a point about a particular topic." 

The journal differs from other New Brunswick news sources because of their subjective perspective, said Stuzynski, a Rutgers College senior.

"In my experience, the Targum runs into problems all the time, taking pressure from the University and New Brunswick officials alike," he said. "I felt there was room in New Brunswick for a different publication that blurred the socially constructed barriers between opinions writing and what we think of as traditional news writing."

Even though they have a different style, students said they were interested in keeping track of the journal's reports. 

"If I'm on the computer, I would definitely keep tabs on the journal, not just because I'm curious to see what kind of ‘news' it reports; it's rather due to my interest in being informed and learning new things," said Dashmeet Singh, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student.

The Johnsonville Press is not just a source of news or entertainment; it's a community-supported platform for peer review that gives writers the opportunity to present their work in a pressure-free, constructive environment, Giannattasio said.

"One of the beautiful things about The Johnsonville Press is that we simply provide the space, but it's the community that fills it with content," he said. "For now, the goal is to reach as large an audience in the area as possible, to allow as many voices as possible to be heard."

Singh said she liked the variety of discourse set-up on the Web site.

"I think [The Johnsonville Press] is a good way for the students to get out there and use what they learned hear at Rutgers, as well as gaining personal experience in writing," Singh said. "I like the out of the ordinary stories and human interest pieces."

 "Things are going better than I ever thought possible. We currently receive several hundred unique visits daily to the Web site, and that number has been growing steadily since we launched in late January," Stuzynski said. "We've got a great team of talented writers covering a wide range of subjects, and again, the number of writers is growing every day.

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