Photo by Bob Reid. San Benito County resident John Eade registers on BenitoLink

Adam Breen, a teacher at San Benito High School, has accepted the position of interim content director at BenitoLink. A native of San Benito County, Breen brings more than 20 years of experience as a writer, editor and reporter for various publications including Santa Clara Magazine, the Hollister Free Lance and the weekly Pinnacle Newspaper. For the past nine years, he has taught at San Benito High School, teaching technical writing, yearbook, computer applications and Freshman Academy classes. He also manages the production of the school’s yearbook and monthly newspaper, The Baler, and is in charge of the Twitter page @BalerNews.

“As a longtime resident of Hollister, I am excited about the community aspect of Benito Link and anxious to engage residents of San Benito County as citizen journalists. Community-based, multimedia journalism  allows people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds to not only have a voice in local discussions, but to help shape them as well. I encourage all of our readers to register on the site and start sharing their stories,” Breen said.

BenitoLink started in 2011 and is San Benito County’s only daily, independent  and free news and information source. Breen replaces Bob Reid, a founding member of BenitoLink and former Advisory Committee member who served as content director for the past eight months. Reid resigned in April. Breen joins Carla Thorning, BenitoLink’s marketing and development consultant, to maintain the site’s overall appearance and keep content fresh and current. They work with a nine-member, voluntary advisory committee to ensure the site meets its goals. Breen will act as interim content director while the advisory committee searches for a person to fill the position in coming months. 

“We are excited to bring Adam on board at BenitoLink as we enter our second year and see the number of regular users exceed all of our expectations,” said Julie Morris, chair of the BenitoLink Advisory Committee.

“BenitoLink is a new-media experiment and we are learning as we go how to navigate this new landscape of online journalism. It’s a wild ride, and we’re confident that Adam has the skills and expertise to take on the task.” 

BenitoLink is a project of the Community Foundation for San Benito County and an outcome of Vision San Benito County, an 18-month process of community engagement that sought to plan for the county’s future needs, articulated by county residents. More than 1,000 participants were involved in a series of listening sessions over ten months and three-day summit in the Fall of 2012. A re-occurring request was to create a reliable source of news and information so residents could make informed decisions about their future. Members of the Vision project then sought funding for a project that would meet that need and secured more than $150,000 from the Knight Foundation to start BenitoLink.  Other sponsors include Gavlian College for the Community Dashboard, the Paicines Ranch, the Community Foundation for San Benito County and many local businesses and individuals who support civic engagement. To support BenitoLink, click here

Judith Kleinberg, Knight Foundation’s former Silicon Valley program director, applauded BenitoLink for being “tremendously responsive to community interest.”

“The way this developed—the thoughtful, strategic approach to this—really made it all the more likely to succeed because it’s what the people wanted. They had a say in what it would look like and how it would work,” Kleinberg said in an October 2013 blog post for the Knight Foundation.

The site is currently exceeding all expectations as far as traffic numbers and generating discussions in the community on everything from what to do on the weekend to the controversial issue of hydraulic fracking. BenitoLink hit a milestone in March of more than 34,000 page views (the number of pages viewed on the site) and 10,000 sessions (the number of unique devices logging on to the site), an increase of more than 400% from the same period last year. 

“It’s great to have Adam on board,” said Gary Byrne, CEO and president of the Community Foundation. “He brings so much experience, local knowledge and history to the position.” 

Breen lives in Hollister with his wife, Mary. They have two sons, one who just completed his freshman year at San Jose State University and the other a graduating senior at San Benito High School.