Mass communications alumnus launches independent news website

SIUE Alumnus Roger Starkey launched The Metro Independent in August

Roger Starkey’s time at SIUE earning his bachelor’s in mass communications has helped prepare him in launching The Metro Independent online community news source.

His time writing and editing for The Alestle, SIUE’s student-run publication, was especially helpful, according to Starkey, as he began as a reporter, then moved on to roles as opinion and sports editor.

“I don’t know how a person can be a journalist without first being a student reporter at a college,” Starkey said. “The student-run newspaper plays a very important role. Tammy Merrett-Murry, the advisor, plays a valuable role in helping students learn.”

Director of The Alestle Tammy Merrett-Murry said she admires his courage to launch the news website.

“It is a pretty gutsy move to start his own business in this media climate. Today many journalists have to have an entrepreneurial bent. He definitely jumped into it,” Merrett-Murry said.
 She said she is not surprised and he always struck her as very organized.

Starkey launched a community online news site, The Metro Independent, based in the Collinsville area in August. According to Starkey the readership thus far has jumped since its launch.

Starkey said the number of people visiting the site from September-October increased by 50 percent and the number of pages they viewed went up by 75 percent. November’s numbers were growing as well.

Word-of-mouth communication gained “The Metro Independent” its largest number of readers, Starkey said.

According to Starkey, his readership peaks during the end of each week when he posts a majority of his stories on Thursday and Friday and also posts headlines on Facebook. He sends out an email blast to people with headlines linked as well.

“A lot of people are clearly keeping up with me every day such as on Facebook pages,” Starkey said. “My readership increases to about 1,700 visitors on Thursdays and Fridays, combined, which represents 45 percent of my readership.”

As an online publication Starkey said he doesn’t consider his reporting inherently different because he does not have a print edition but there are some flexibilities he has in writing.

“Print newspapers with an online presence and a certain number of stories they can run in print care about space more than I do,” Starkey said.

According to Starkey, he can add more depth to subjects so that they stand alone as a story and are “not just glossed over in a paragraph or two in a larger story.”

He said when covering an area for news publication “you have to know your market.”

Starkey said there is a different focus as a community newspaper than a regional newspaper.

An example he gives is that a regional paper may attend a city council meeting and publish an article that night on a singular topic among the many other discussed. Yet Starkey said he would cover the meeting more extensively.

Starkey currently has four categories of news including SIUE events and news from which he receives press releases. He would publish one or two non-sports stories about SIUE in a week, then run stories from SIUE Sports Information on a regular basis.

His first bachelor’s degree was in marketing from Illinois State University. He quit his position as a software IT consultant then earned his second bachelor’s degree in mass communication in spring 2013.

Starkey said he did not always believe he had the ability for journalism until he pursued recently with the moral support of his wife.

“I’ve always been interested in journalism yet when I was 18 I decided I wasn’t talented enough to be a journalist so I pursued other careers,” Starkey said.

Starkey said he puts in about 100 hours a week of work.

“It’s not unique when starting a business. It’s pretty much perpetual work as a startup. There’s always at least 10 hours more work than there are hours in the day,” Starkey said.

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