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April 27, 2023

Framingham media outlet to stop reporting news as journalist hired by City

Susan Petroni smiling. Photo | Courtesy of City of Framingham Susan Petroni has been hired to be the City of Framongham's new public information officer.

The only news outlet dedicated to solely covering Framingham, the 14th largest community in Massachusetts, will stop reporting news amid financial struggles as its sole journalist will become a spokesperson for the city’s government.

The City of Framingham announced on Tuesday it hired veteran journalist Susan Petroni as the city’s new public information officer.

“Communicating with residents what the City and my administration is accomplishing is a top priority, and I can’t think of a better person to accomplish that goal than Susan,” Mayor Charlie Sisitsky said in a press release on Tuesday. "Susan will be the City's spokesperson, in charge of communications for all municipal departments except for Framingham Police.”

Petroni has reported on Framingham as a journalist for 13 years. She launched the Framingham Patch Media site in 2010 and started Framingham SOURCE after being laid off for the second time by the news site in 2016. SOURCE became a vital local news website since its launch as Gannett Co., Inc. has cut staff at its local newsrooms across the country, which includes the MetroWest Daily News. 

On April 13, SOURCE announced it needed to change its business model and was no longer going to be a place for news because it was not financially viable. 

“The news outlet has had huge editorial successes over the last 6 years,” Petroni wrote. “But financially, the media outlet has struggled.”

In the post, Petroni said the site would become a self-publishing site that will run press releases and bulletin items, and Petroni would no longer report on City Hall or oversee the day-to-day operations of the City. She announced she would hire a webmaster. 

Then on Tuesday, the City of Framingham announced Petroni would begin working for the City starting on Monday. Petroni will write and distribute media releases, developing and producing a newsletter, overseeing social media, and work with print, radio, and TV for the City. She will collaborate with the director of community and economic development on website content and design. She will oversee the development and completion of professional communication materials, including annual reports, professional brochures, and material for the administration. 

"I plan to use my experience as a journalist, to develop and implement a comprehensive communications network in the City of Framingham, including a weekly newsletter," Petroni said in the press release.

The SOURCE filled a news void in Framingham as the MetroWest Daily News and the Milford Daily News began printing papers once a week in 2022. In the same year, Gannett in both August and December announced major cuts to its local news operation, including cutting jobs among its newsroom staff.

Journalists leaving the profession to work in the generally higher-paying world of public relations is fairly common, including working in marketing departments of organizations they used to report on, including governments. The practice has become noteworthy as more news outlets cut jobs and reporters search for work outside of news. The City of Worcester hired former MassLive and Worcester Magazine reporter Tom Matthews to be its media and public relations administrator. The press office for Worcester County District Attorney Joseph Early Jr. is run by two former MassLive reporters, Lindsay Corcoran and Scott Croteau.

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