Interview with Stefanie Pearl - Executive Director of Happy Hudson Valley

Stefanie Pearl

Happy Hudson Valley is a community media devoted to the life of Hudson Valley, New York. As Stefanie mentions, its goal was and always will be to shine a light on community – in some ways in response to the negative portrayal traditional media has cast.

Could you please briefly tell when did you create your community media? Did you do it alone? 
I am thrilled that I have been offered this opportunity. I have been wanting since the beginning of this project to share the intel I used to create it with a team somewhere else who can put it to good use! I started the project in 2011 as a basic wordpress site whereby I was the single contributing author. I spent an entire year doing extensive legwork creating partnerships with as many organizations as I could, and covering local stories on a weekly rotating basis that filled my five categories of preferred topics. Kids - LOL (now LOVE - Food - News and Deals. In 2013 I had the site rebuilt with drupal technology so that community members were able to log in and post themselves to the event calendar and even the news category. It was been very successful!

Who is in your team now? 
Still just me and a few intermittent contributors. I also have a social media intern.

Did you have any funding at the start of creation? What was the amount of it?  
There was no start up money for this project at all. The original site was built by friends as a favor. The rebuild costed in the ballpark of 6,500 and I own the IP for the model. It is also available for resale for much less.

What is the amount of funding now? Who are the donors? 
There are no donors -- this is a paid project that was funded via a loan. It has been paid for in advertising dollars and sponsorship.

Hudson River

Do you have salaries? Is that your only work or it is more like your hobby?
There is no salary at this time as it remains a one man show. We were offered a car sponsorship however, so our ride around town has been funded by a generous local business who believes in the positive message we're sharing.

What is an approximate amount you spend for your media in a month? 
Cost per month to operate after the initial build ~ $100/month

What are you goals for development of your media? 
I would love to see the platform adopted across the country, and even internationally. I have a website already parked called where I would share all of those sites in the hopes of making this project bigger and largely recognized.

Does your media earn any money from advertisement or smth else?
Yes, money coming in is advertising dollars. You can see there are banner blocks built into the template. That is part of the product as a whole.

Can you call yourself an independent media? 
Yes, independent in content and funding.

What are the difficulties in your work?
The site is largely self-sustaining now that the back end has enabled user content. We screen the information, but more than half is now provided to us in the form of press releases and private contributions.

Interviews were conducted under the Project "Fostering Civic Journalism in Ukrainian's Regions", supported by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The views of the authors do not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. government.