If you live, work or play in Maplewood or Brentwood, then you probably know Doug Miner, a lanky, smiley guy with a camera constantly in tow.
A fixture at Maplewood's Stone Spiral coffee house and Brentwood football games, Miner is the sole force behind St. Louis' newest neighborhood news site, 40 South News, named for the towns' locations south of Highway 40.
Until last month, Miner was the Maplewood-Brentwood editor for AOL's hyperlocal journalism experiment, Patch.com, which had 24 sites in St. Louis suburbs and more than 900 across the country. On October 15, AOL laid off 500 Patch employees across the country -- including Miner and all but one of the Missouri editors -- choosing to fill the sites with generic, click-bait content and blog posts from unpaid contributors instead of reported local journalism.
But the job had already inspired a full-time passion in Miner, who writes three local stories a day for his new site, designs newsletters, takes photos, Facebooks, Tweets and recruits advertisers -- all with the hopes of one day being able to pay himself.
"I didn't want to stop," Miner says. "It's like, 'You're going to lay me off? I don't care! I'm going to keep doing it.' I may be crazy, but I'm going to keep my same job. I'll do it myself. What the heck."
(Author's note: I, too, was laid off from Patch last month, though I did not sign AOL's legal agreement restricting what I can say about the company in exchange for two weeks' pay.)
Patch's closing left gaping holes in news coverage for many of the 30 neighborhoods it covered, including Maplewood and Brentwood: The Suburban Journals no longer cover St. Louis county suburbs. TV stations post only brief updates from big or bloody stories. Only high school sports and restaurant openings are covered with regularity in mid-county, and that's not enough for up-and-coming, unabashedly hip Maplewood or its rich older neighbor Brentwood.
Miner hopes to keep local coverage alive. He's continuing the Maplewood police blotter, which was not published online until Patch came to St. Louis in 2010, and he's following Brentwood's budget woes, which only came to light when a political scandal drove residents to petition for an audit that revealed outrageously sloppy accounting.
Other times Miner's posts are as simple as a photo an an explanation of some local curiosity:
Who's reading 40 South News? Find out after the jump. "If there's no more Patch, this would be a nice alternative for the communities to publish local news," says Steve Jawor, who owns Maplewood's Great Harvest Bread Company.
Jawor advertises on 40 South News, joining other local businesses, including Pie Oh My, Kakao, Traveling Tea, Studio Forte, the Crow's Nest and Olympia Kebab House & Taverna, who financially support the site.
"He has a passion for it," Jawor says. "It's a crazy life. When you see people taking a chance on something, you want to support it. That's what life's about."
More than 100 people have signed up for Miner's daily e-newsletters, which he says have an open rate of 40 percent and a click-through rate of 18 percent -- numbers his bosses at Pach would have been happy to see, Miner says. More than 460 have liked his Facebook page, and 47 people follow the news on Twitter.
"A few people have thanked me for starting the site," Miner says. "Many of them realize how frazzled I am. I've gone from an editor to a publisher. I got a promotion," he jokes.
"Now I just have to figure out how to get paid!"