By ANNA STREETMAN
KENNESAW, Ga. — In 2013, Dan Whisenhunt decided he wanted to do journalism “on his own terms” and founded the award-winning Decaturish.com.
Decaturish.com is a locally sourced news website and blog. It covers news in the Decatur, Avondale, Kirkwood, and the metro area. In 2014, Whisenhunt won Creative Loafing’s “best local blogger” award for Decaturish.com.
“I wanted to start my own news website because I wanted to do things my way,” Whisenhunt told the Kennesaw State University chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists Tuesday.
“I wanted to do journalism without somebody breathing over my shoulder asking ‘Why? Why do you want to do this? Why do you want to look that up?’ Sometimes there’s no why. You just have a hunch and want to check things out.”
Whisenhunt’s goal with Decaturish is to provide news that is both chatty and fun, but also serious and informative. He also stresses the importance of keeping things “fair, transparent, and accountable.” Of the news Decaturish covers, Whisenhunt jokes that his readers tend to care about two things: crime and food.
Whisenhunt has a few suggestions for those wanting to start an online news website. He suggests knowing your target audience, talking to people who have done it before, and diversifying your writing – don’t stick to one subject. He also suggests having some business experience.
To those who want to write for online, or any publications, Whisenhunt has two main pieces of advice: be good at more than one thing, and never work for free.
“Atlanta is a tough place to be a journalist,” Whisenhunt says. “There are tons of talented freelance journalists. A lot of people can write. That’s why you need to be able to do more than write. Also, never work for free. Your time and money is valuable. If you work for free, you’re sending the message that you’re dispensable, when you’re not. You’re sending the message that it’s OK to not pay freelancers, when it isn’t.”
To Whisenhunt, his paid subscribers are the true measure of success. Although thousands of people read the website every month, not everybody pays to. Currently, Decaturish has over 200 people who pay subscription fees every month.
“Success, to me, is those 200 people who care about what we are doing, recognize that it takes time and money, and want to see us continue to put out good news,” says Whisenhunt. “I do what I do for the people that value us every day.”
In the future, Whisenhunt hopes to hire five or six more full-time reporters, possibly take Decaturish to print, and possibly open some sister websites.
Prior to starting Decaturish in 2013, Whisenhunt was a journalist for the Anniston Star in Anniston, Ala. He also worked for the Times Free Press in Chattanooga, Tenn. before moving to Sandy Springs, Ga. and serving as the assistant editor and digital content manager for Reporter Newspapers.